Category Archives: geeking out

Secrets: Currencies in the Four Corners World

Years ago, I did a tiny, impromptu reading in Stevens Point. I announced it on facebook about 20 minutes before the fact, and there were only 6-7 people there.

When I asked for questions, (because I love doing Q&A) someone asked, “How does the currency system work? You’ve got pennies and jots and shims. How does it all fit together?”

“Oh,” I said, waving my hands. “It’s really complicated. You don’t want me to get started.”

“I’m really curious,” she said. “I’d love to hear the details.”

“There really isn’t a simple answer,” I said. “There are, like, six currency systems, and I’ve put a ridiculous amount of thought into how they work, where they come from. All that. It would take me half an hour to explain it all.”

“I’m fine with that,” she said.

“Well, fair enough,” I said. “You might be interested, and I might be interested. But the other folks here probably don’t want to sit through a spontaneous lecture about Four Corners economic history.”

“Actually, I’m really curious too,” one of the other audience members said.

“Okay,” I said, “How about this? If *everyone* here is curious, I’ll explain it.”

And, much to my surprise, everyone there *was* interested. So I sat down and talked about the currency systems. (It actually took closer to 40 minutes.)

Since then, I’ve probably had a hundred people ask me how money works in the Four Corners, both in person and in e-mail. But I’ve never really had the time and opportunity to give them a detailed answer.

But now, as a way of saying thanks for people chipping in to Worldbuilders, I’ve got a cool widget you can play with that will answer a lot of your questions about the different currency systems in my world.

It will also let you do conversions between the different currencies, with or without the Cealdim taking their cut.

What’s more, certain elements of it are clickable. So if you hunt around, you’ll be able to learn more about the history and the currencies themselves. Again, if you’re into that sort of thing. I’m a geek for this stuff. But I’m well aware that not everyone is. That’s why I’ve kept most of it out of the books.

When we re-design the website. The widget will probably have its own page where you can wander over and convert to your geeky heart’s content. But for now, you’ll have to click here to see it.

Here’s the link to the Widget.

I’ll probably tweak it more in the future. Maybe get Brett or Nate to draw some of the coins so you can get a better idea of how some of them would look. Stuff like that.

Special thanks go to Jason “Kuma” Brinkerhoff without whom there would be no widget.

You know he’s one of us, because when I asked him for a picture he sent this one where he’s wearing, and I quote: “my Browncoat Ball finery.”

Jason, put up with my vaguely obsessive tendencies and long e-mail silences to put the widget together. Without him, the currency explanation would be nothing but a big texty mass and some ugly conversion tables. Instead, we have something fun we can actually play with.

As a gesture of gratitude, I offer him my heartfelt thanks, and have sent him a set of gold talent pipes. Because he’s awesome.

Lastly, just out of curiosity, if we were to make coins based on the currency in my world. Nice coins, not crappy cheap ones. Would y’all be interested in that?

It’s something I’ve been thinking about for a while, and I’d love to do it. But I’m not sure people would be interested in buying something like that from The Tinker’s Packs.

So… any interest?


Also posted in The Shape of the World | By Pat89 Responses

Photo Contest Winners – Action

Yes. Seriously.

Those of you who know anything about me probably realize that I have a problem with deadlines.

The root of this difficulty is multifarious. But it can mostly be traced back to three elements in my personality.

1. A desire for perfection.

I get obsessive about doing everything *just right* when honestly, *mostly* right would be just fine in most cases.

2. Enthusiasm. 

I get excited about things, which leads me to pick up new projects, which means I constantly over-commit myself, which means I’m always too busy.

3. Stupidity.

This third one is something of a catch-all category, covering my vast array of ancillary character flaws.

Any one of these things can slow a person down, but when you get all three of them together. Well…. it can lead to embarrassing situations.

Like, for example, running a photo contest for your readers, and then taking more than a year to post the results.

There are many reasons for the delay.

Yes, I have been over-busy. (Working on my writing, my fundraiser, and spending time with my little boy.)

And yes, I did foolishly underestimate the number of entries I’d get for the contest. (Well over a thousand.)

And yes, when confronted with the task of judging the entries, my perfectionist tendencies screwed me hard. There were so many good ones.

Besides, so many of the pictures defied easy categorization. Look at this one for example:

Am I supposed to put this in the Kids category? In Costumes? In Clever References? Do I have to start a category just for things that are Unbelievably Frikking Cute?

So many of the pictures were so good. People went to really amazing lengths to take them. I wanted to do the perfect job arranging and judging them. Instead, I just ended up paralyzed with indecision.

But that stops today. I’ve waited too long, so I’m going to bull ahead and settle for *mostly* perfect. It’s time to start showing off the pictures and giving out the prizes.

So here we go, the best photos in the Action category:

*     *     *

There’s a lot of ways you can portray action in a photo.

You can show it directly:

Or indirectly:

We got some Hollywood action, too.

I like this one because honestly, if I could do magic. I would just use it to impress girls.

In the rules of the contest, I told people that they shouldn’t do anything dangerous, like, say, play with fire.

But did they listen?

No, they did not.

They really did not:

They absolutely did not listen to me:

We got some zombie action:

Pirate action:

And geek action:

We’ve got action in the streets:

At the amusement park:

And on top of things:

(He’s a parkour instructor. Don’t do this shit. Seriously.)

But while all of these are great (and believe me, there were dozens I had to leave out) in the end, I had to pick some winners.

Here they are:

Not only is this a great picture, but I’m a huge fan of Aikido. And if I’m mistaken and this isn’t Aikido, it’s still awesome.

This gains a spot not because it’s a scantily clad young woman, but because 1) I could never do this in a hundred years. 2) I actually do not understand the physics that are keeping her from crashing to the floor.

I love this one. We’ve all felt like this at some point, haven’t we?

And lastly:

(You should probably embiggen this one. It’s worth it.)

If you’re having trouble sussing out what’s going on here, let me break it down for you: Young girl + Playing + Red clothes + Swords in a Tree = ???

(Hint: The answer is “Awesome.”)

I’m all sorts of fond of this picture.

“But wait!” I hear you cry. “Pat. There’s no book in this picture! You clearly said in the rules that the book had to be in the picture!”

Don’t quibble. The book is there. You can just barely see it behind her leg….


Here’s another:

And here we see the difference between girls and boys:

OSHA concerns aside, it looks like someone had a pretty great day at the park.

And as a bonus, they (and the rest of the winners) will be sent some Talent pipes as I described in the blog a while back.

It will will probably be a little while before I get to do another one of these. But they are coming. I just wanted to show y’all some proof that even if it takes a while, I do keep my promises.

In the meantime, if you’re looking for something cool, you should stay tuned to the blog, because we’re going to be posting up new items into the Worldbuilders lottery almost every day for the rest of the month. We’ll be adding new stuff to the Worldbuilders auction page too.

Stay tuned….


Also posted in a few words you're probably going to have to look up, cool things, fan coolness, Photo Contest 2011 | By Pat37 Responses

Episode 4: The Play’s the Thing

Here’s this month’s episode of StoryBoard, for those of you who haven’t caught it yet. Episode 4: The Play’s the Thing.

This month we broke with tradition in several ways. We pre-recorded the show in order to avoid election night bandwidth issues, and we invited four guests instead of the regular three.

Both experiments were a qualified success. Shooting the show earlier in the day allowed us to bring in parents and east-coasters Peter V. Brett, Myke ColeSaladin Ahmed, and Naomi Novick. We also managed to avoid running into election coverage by scheduling a week before the election.

The downside is that there was a *tiny* little hurricane going on during our hangout. I don’t think that helped our connectivity very much. We lost a few of our guests for a couple minutes here and there, but since all the authors involved were experienced speakers and tabletop RPGers, none of them were thrown too far off their game.

Did I mention that this month our focus was storytelling in roleplaying?

Here it is….

Share and Enjoy…

Also posted in gaming, Geek and Sundry, the craft of writing, The Story Board, video games, videos | By Pat14 Responses

Epic D&D….

So for those of you with power out there on the East Coast, here’s something that might take your minds off things for half an hour or so.

For the rest of you, it will provide a welcome break from political ads.

Last year at Confusion, Peter V. Brett had the brilliant idea that since a bunch of fantasy authors were all getting together in one place, and since we all played D&D back in the day, we should get together, and, well, be huge *HUGE* geeks for an afternoon.

And when I say “we,” what I really mean is Peter V. Brett, Joe Abercrombie, Myke Cole, Scott Lynch, Elizabeth BearSaladin Ahmed, Jay Lake, and Jim C. Hines. And me.

So we rocked it old school. We busted out the AD&D rules, rolled up some second level characters, and played Keep on the Borderlands.

All I can say is that I’m glad that someone rolled a camera on the event. Myke Cole and Saladin Ahmed acted as Co-GM’s and did a brilliant job of herding the sackful of cats guiding me and my fellow authors through the game.

Since then, we’ve had all the footage edited down and tidied up by my friend Erin. Here’s what we ended up with. The cinematography isn’t anything special, but the video itself really turned out amazingly funny. If you’ve ever role played, or if you have any interest in seeing authors descend to the pits of geekery, you should really take a look….

The fact that we finally got this video up and running gave me the inspiration for this month’s Storyboard, where we’re going to talk about Storytelling in RPG’s. (That’s foreshadowing, BTW.)

Some of the other authors have done their own write-ups of this event, and I don’t have much to add to this except to say that every single thing they say in there is absolutely true.

Brent Weeks

Myke Cole

Joe Abercrombie

More soon,


Also posted in gaming, the craft of writing, The Story Board, videos | By Pat26 Responses

Fan Coolness….

Long ago, I wrote a blog answering the question, “If I mail you a book, will you sign it?”

It that blog (which included a flow chart that I’m still pretty proud of) I explained the truth of the situation. Specifically, that I’d be happy to sign your books, but there are complications. Books get lost in the mail. Books get damaged. It takes time for me to sign a book, time to package and unpackage it, time to go to the post office, money to ship it, etc.

Generally speaking, it’s easier, safer, and faster to just buy a signed book in our online store: The Tinker’s Packs. Plus the money you spend there goes to charity, so it’s a double win.

Still, I know what it’s like to become attached to a book, and to want to have that particular book signed. So in that blog I told people if they *really* wanted to send me a book, I’d sign it, provided they followed certain rules. Most important among these is that they include return postage and send me something cool.

I expected the requests to kinda die down after that. But I was wrong. Very, very wrong.

In the years since I posted that blog, I’ve received hundreds and hundreds of gifts. So many that I can’t even begin to put an accurate number on it.

And for years, as I’ve opened the packages, I’ve thought to myself, “This is so cool. I’ve got to show this to people on the blog….”

Unfortunately, with rare exception, I never get around to it. There just aren’t enough hours in the day.

But a couple weeks ago, I got something I really want to tell you about.

The package showed up, late in the afternoon, and I dug through it looking for the toy surprise. A lot of times, getting a package or a letter from a fan can be the high point of my day.

At the bottom of the box I found something heavy wrapped in cloth. When I picked it up, my first thought was, “It’s a knife.”

Now this isn’t a first for me. Folks have sent me knives before. Someone sent me a knife they’d carved themselves out of wood. Someone else sent me a skinning knife from Alaska once.

But this was *really* heavy. So heavy that I almost thought it couldn’t be a knife. I have a knife made from a railroad tie, and this was heavier than that.

When I unwrapped it, I found this:

The entire knife was metal. Everything. Blade, guard, handle. Everything out of solid metal.

I looked at it and thought: Did someone make me a copper knife?

Then I thought: No. Nobody would do that.

Then I thought: This really looks like a copper knife.

Then I thought: Seriously?

So I brought out the letter and read it. It was from a guy named Tait and his friend Loren (no relation). Who run a little site called Esoteric Garage. They explained that they they liked to goof around with forging things as a hobby. And when they were talking about my books they came to the conclusion that, “a copper knife could be really useful if you wanted to kill a namer.”

Then I thought, These guys have been reading the books really closely.

I geeked out pretty hard. I called Tait and told him that this was the coolest thing I’d seen in months. He confirmed that the entire thing was copper. Even the rods that hold the handle together. Clever stuff.

After I got off the phone, I was still all excited about my knife. And I started to think, “I think I’ve been wrong about copper weapons. I think you could probably really fuck somebody up with this.”

So there I was, at the work house, holding a knife. And you know what it’s like when you’re holding something like that. When you pick up a nice  baseball bat, you want to swing it around. You pick up a hatchet, you want to cut some wood. Some things yearn toward their purpose. Some things are the embodiment of a purpose. Some objects are practically crystallized verbs.

What I’m getting at, is that I was filled with a powerful urge to stab something.

This is not my best expression ever. Apparently, this is what I look like when I’m trying hard to repress the urge to stab.

I should stress that this urge was, first and foremost, scientific. You see, this sort of thing is research for me. The more experiences I gather, the more effective I am as a writer.

Luckily, I’m able to control my scientific urges to a certain degree. This is especially fortunate, considering Amanda, one of my assistants, was in the workhouse with me.

So, in the interest of science, I stepped back and stabbed the nearby doorframe as hard as I could. Because, y’know, it’s my house, and I can do whatever the hell I want.

What did I learn from the experiment?

1. I made a good choice in hiring Amanda. As I stood there, looking at the knife sticking out of the wall, she said. “I kinda figured you were going to do that.”

2. You can definitely fuck somebody up with a copper knife.

3. Copper’s more durable than I suspected.

Also, I was reminded that my readers are very cool. Because not only did Tait send me a knife as a present, but he mentioned he might have something to donate to worldbuilders in a couple of months….

Thanks so much, Tait. Rest assured that I’m pretty sure you’re not legally responsible for anything I do with this. At worst, you’re accessory-before-the-fact.

Have a good weekend everybody,


Also posted in boding, cool things, fan coolness, Science | By Pat72 Responses

Two great books, and a chance to win a free DeLorean

Commander Harken: Seems odd you’d name your ship after a battle you were on the wrong side of.
Captain Reynolds: May have been the losing side. Still not convinced it was the wrong one.

That’s all I feel like saying on the subject of the recall election right now.

*     *     *

There are two things happening this week that all proper geeks should be aware of.

First off, Redshirts, is hitting the shelves.

I know, I know…. you can’t really judge a book by its cover. In my opinion, if you’re going to judge, you should do it by the blurbs on the back:

(Click to Embiggen.)

As I mentioned on the blog a couple months back, I got an early read of the book early on this year. As a result, I ended up laughing my ass off at a local restaurant, while everyone stared at me like I was a crazy person. Which is fair enough, I suppose.

If you’re interested, you can read the review I wrote, including the bit where I threaten Scalzi with violence, over here.

The second piece of vital geek news today is the fact that Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One, went on sale in paperback this week.

Now this would be news enough by itself, because honestly, Ready Player One was probably the best book I read last year. (And I read a lot.)

But no, the REAL news is that to celebrate the paperback release, Ernest is giving away a DeLorean. Which is somehow manages to be the coolest AND the geekiest promotional thing that I’ve ever run into.

(Seriously, he’s giving away a DeLorean.)

How can you win it? Well, he’s hidden clues in his book. You find the clues, you play some games, you can win his sweet ride.

For the details, you can head over here.

I’ll also mention, just as an aside, that both John Scalzi and Ernest Cline were very cool about donating stuff to Worldbuilders last year. So if you were right on the edge, and just needed one more reason to rush out and buy their books, there it is…


Also posted in contests, cool news, recommendations | By Pat28 Responses

A Different Sort of Interview

So as some of you know, Jo Walton has been doing an in-depth reading of my first two books over at for more than a year now.

That’s a bit of a boggling thought by itself right there. That there’s a whole community of folks over there that have been going over my books with a fine tooth comb for over a year. The fact that the discussion is being headed up my a World Fantasy Award winning novelist is the cherry on top of my surrealism sundae.

While it’s flattering knowing that the discussion is out there, I’ve been keeping myself away from the posts because I don’t really want to know *too* much about what speculation is going on. That sort of thing can be bad for a writer.

But when Jo contacted me to let me know that they were wrapping up book two, and folks were dying to ask me some questions, I couldn’t say no.

I only had two stipulations:

1. I wouldn’t give any spoilers.

2. I could be cryptic and evasive, if not downright opaque in my answers.

3. I reserved the right to make puns, flippant jokes, and obscure quotes without fear of reprisal.

Jo agreed and sent me the questions.

There were roughly a billion of them. So many that even after I weeded some out, the finished interview ended up being over a dozen pages long.

Because of this, we decided to split it in half. The first part is here on my blog. The second half is over on (I’ll give you the link later.)

What really impressed me was the nature of the questions. The quality of the questions. A lot of these made me stop and think. A lot more made me pull copies of my book down off the shelf to double check things before I gave an answer.

The truth is, I’ve never been asked questions like these before. Or at least I’ve never had to deal with so many of them packed into one short period of time. It felt a little bit like I was being tested on my own book. But in a good way.

Anyway, without further ado, here’s the first half of the interview.

  • Geography

Why did you choose to give us the kind of map you did? Is there any hope of a really detailed map that contains locations of vital interest like Caluptena and Newarre?

This is a question that many, many people have asked. And I’ve been meaning to post a blog about it for years and years.

How here’s the deal: I’ll pass over this question lightly so I can spend more time on the rest of the interview. But I promise to post up a detailed answer here on my blog in just a month or so. Lhin?

As far as future maps go, where there is life, there is hope. (And need of vittles.) I’ll probably include some more detailed regional maps if/when I ever do the role playing game based off my book.

What is the physical shape of the world of the Four Corners? (Spherical, flat, hyperbolic, …)

I try to avoid hyperbole in my writing. I find it distasteful.

In a related question, what’s up with the moon being always full before the War of Naming?

I can only refer you to Chapter 102. At this time, all I have to say on the subject is right there.

Also, it’s not called the war of naming. It’s called the Creation War.

Were there any particularly cool scenes/ideas/random facts about the 4C world you had to leave out, and could you please tell us about them if so?

Generally speaking, I leave the cool parts in the book. When I take something out, it’s because it’s not cool enough, so it drags down the overall awesome of the book.

If I do cut something cool, it’s usually because there’s a better place for it somewhere else. There are two whole chapters that used to be in book one, that are now going to show up in book three. They work much better there.

Can you tell us about any locations we haven’t seen yet which we’ll be visiting on D3?

Hmmmm…. You see, the thing is, even a relatively innocuous question like this could be considered a spoiler to some people.

Let me give you an example. I’m going to assume you’re all solid geeks, and that you’ve already gone to see The Avengers.

(I’m going to talk about the movie, so consider this your spoiler alert.)

You know in the trailer for The Avengers where they show the hulk catching Iron Man out of the air?

That’s a spoiler.

Why? Here’s why.

There I am, watching in the theatre, watching Tony Stark flying off into space to jam a nuke up the ass of some aliens. Good times. High stakes. Big adventure. Then his HUD starts to get all crackly.

Now they’ve already established Tony as being the selfish guy who’s ripe for a transformational moment, ready to become the self-sacrificing hero. He’s just called his girlfriend to say goodbye.

And I think, “Oh shit. This is Joss Whedon directing this. He’s at the helm. He wouldn’t…. Fuck. No. Of course he would. Joss would totally kill off Tony Stark….”

Except that moment of honest dread only lasts a microsecond because I’ve seen in the trailer that the Hulk grabs Iron Man out of the air and slides down the building.

So I know he’s not going to snuff it. I’m robbed of my dramatic tension.


So I’ll answer this question, and give away a little piece of advance knowledge to the folks that hunger for such things.

But here’s what we’re going to do. Let’s move this question WAAAAAY down to the end of the interview. Way at the end of the second piece over on We’ll have the tiny potential spoilers tucked away safely down there. Because I know some of you are like me, and you like your stories pure.

Does that sound fair?

Where do they get all of the chocolate from?

The same place we do. From coco beans.

  • Naming

Does time have a name that could be learned?

Boy. That’s a really good question. Any question I can’t answer off the top of my head is a good one.

Elodin would probably have a really great reply to this….

My gut response, given about a minute’s thought is that no, it doesn’t. No more than, say, height has a name.

That’s not cannon though. I might be wrong.

Does the difficulty of learning names vary from name to name, or namer to namer?

Oh god yes. That should be really obvious from the books.

What is the difference between shaping and naming?

That is a very good question. A very, very good question. You have no idea how good a question that is.

Whoever asked this, you’re going to really enjoy parts of book three….

Is there a Collective Sleeping Mind, akin to Jungian ideas of the collective unconscious?

While I’ll admit I find the concept of the collective unconscious appealing, I don’t really know if it exists in this world…. Let alone if it has an analog in the Four Corners….

And if so, did Iax take a big chunk of it, weave it into whole-cloth and Shape Faen, thus separating essential energy from the mortal world?

Boy. Wow. There are a bunch of assumptions in that question. I can count three distinct underlying implied concepts without even trying. It’s the onion-layered cosmological version of, “Have you stopped beating your wife yet?”

So I’ll have to pass on answering it. But it’s a good question. It reveals that you’ve put a flattering amount of thought into figuring out how the world works.

  • Sympathy

You say sympathy was invented at the University. Are magics truly invented or just discovered and developed, like radio? If invented, are there other magics to be created? Does Kvothe create one? Is the Fae realm different from the 4C in the kind of magics that can be created there?

Merciful Buddah. A four question, question. You don’t write high-school essays by any chance, do you?

Questions like these are a huge mess to answer all at once, so I’m going to separate them out. One answer for each sentence.

1. I’m pretty sure I didn’t say that.

2. I’m pretty sure that a radio counts as an invention.

3. That’s a good question.

4. No spoilers. But nice try.

5. No. (But faen magic is notably different than the sort of magic normally practiced in the four corners.)

In Austin, you said there were six kinds of magic of which we’d seen five. What are they? If the sixth is a spoiler, what are the five we’ve seen?

Depending on how you look at things, there are a lot of different ways you could group, and therefore count, the different magics in the books.

For example. Sympathy and Sygaldry are both very similar, as they both deal almost exclusively with the manipulation of tangible force in all its varied forms.

Which means, of course, depending on how you count them, (or on how I was counting them that particular day in Austin) there could be more that six types of magic.

Still, here are the names of the five I’ve exposed you to in the book so far.


You’ve seen glimpses of one other, but you don’t have a name for it yet.

Are all the different types of magic (e.g., naming/shaping, sympathy/sygaldry, alchemy, glamourie, gramerie, etc.) fundamentally different, or are they actually different sides of the same six-sided die?

Whoops. Did I mention grammarie in the book by name.

[Pat goes to look.]

Huh. I guess I did, twice. That was probably later in the revision process.

So yeah, I guess that’s six magics I’ve shown in the books.

(Whoops. Seven. I just remembered one more that gets a whisper of a mention. And there’s an eighth you haven’t seen yet.)

To answer your question though, some types of magic are very much the same (as I mentioned above.) While others are very, very different.

Whether all types of magic somehow follow the same underlying principles is a matter of some discussion at the University. But nobody has discovered the Grand Unified Theory of magic, if that’s what you’re asking.

People have tried, of course. But mostly that’s the sort of thing that students talk about late at night when they get drunk. It’s also the sort of thing that rhetoricians and philosophers discuss. But those aren’t the sort of people Kvothe hangs out with.

*     *     *

For the second, larger chunk of the interview, you can head over here.

For bonus points, see if you can spot and identify all four of my quotes references in the interview. Without using google, lameass.



Also posted in fan coolness, Interviews, Surreal enthusiasm | By Pat78 Responses
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