The game is designed by veteran game inventors James Ernest and Paul Peterson, who asked Patrick Rothfuss if he was interested in incorporating it into the world of the Kingkiller Chronicle. After playing the game with friends, Rothfuss was convinced that the game was exactly the sort of game he would see people playing in the Eolian. In the booklet the game is described as a popular recreational activity in The Four Corners of Civilization:
- Pairs exists in one form or another throughout the civilized world, from Vintas and the Commonwealth to the farthest corners of the small kingdoms. In his seminal history, The Chains of Empire, Etregan speculated that the game, originated in Atur, and was spread by conquest, just as Atur brought rule of law, common language, and a standardized system of timekeeping to the lands it subjugated.
- Many scholars disagree, citing as evidence Modegan decks that appear to predate Atur’s expansion by more than 400 years. Others point out iconography in Aturan decks that predates the empire and seems to originate in pre-plague Caluptena. The game’s origin seems lost to history, with countless regions having their own decks and variations of play.
Pairs features an unusual deck of cards. The deck has only the numbers 1 through 10, with a different number of each card: 1x1, 2x2, 3x3, and so on, up to 10x10.
In the basic game, points are bad, and you score points by getting a pair. So, if you have a 10, there are 9 other cards that could pair it up, and you'll get 10 penalty points if you do. Players take turns deciding whether to take another card, or fold, trying to avoid scoring points. When you fold, you have to take points, but only the smallest card in play.
The game includes many versions of art decks to choose from, but they all work for the same game (and many variant games). Currently, there are four illustrated decks based on locations in the world of the Kingkiller Chronicle.
The Commonwealth deck, also known as Core deck, is the deck that started it all. The deck contains the "Calamities" game variant, a special rule for the 7's when playing basic Pairs, and possibly another entire game, called "Sweep".
- In the Calamities variant, the 7's attract attention. So they are lower than 1s for determining who goes first, and if you are dealt a 7, the turn stays with you.
- Sweep is a bidding game in which players play cards from their hands to pick up cards from the table. The goal is to collect the most cards in every rank.
The deck is illustrated by Shane Tyree and contains images of iconic character types from the Commonwealth in the Four Corners world, plus seven Calamities illustrated on the 7's.
The Modegan Deck features concepts and culture from the Modegan people, a race that's not explored in great depth (yet) in the Kingkiller Chronicle. The deck contains the bonus game Blackstone. Blackstone is slightly like Pairs, but the only dangerous cards are the 10s (the "black stones"). Players take turns drawing multiple cards, trying to avoid collecting a pair of 10s. All other cards go into the middle, and these discards dictate the price of folding, as well as the penalty for losing.
The deck is illustrated by Shane Tyree and does not include names on its cards. The following is a list of what each card represent, provided by Patrick Rothfuss:
The Faen have their own Pairs deck, and their own game variant, "Hawthorn". Hawthorn plays a little like Pairs, but with a hand of cards. Players take turns playing cards from their hand, and taking cards from the deck, in an effort to last the longest without drawing a pair. Also, rather than paying the penalty in points, players keep score with chips.
The Faen deck is illustrated by Nate Taylor and contains many slightly NSFW images of faeries, mortals, and other mysteries from the Faen realm. There are seven different 7's (The Mortal Guests), and three different 9's (a "Revelry" triptych).
|Works in the The Kingkiller Chronicle series|
|Novels||The Name of the Wind (2007) ▪ The Wise Man's Fear (2011) ▪ The Doors of Stone (to be released)|
|Companion tales||How Old Holly Came to Be in Unfettered (2013) ▪ The Lightning Tree in Rogues (2014) ▪ The Slow Regard of Silent Things (2014) ▪ The Tale of Laniel Young-Again (to be released)|
|Derived works||Cealdish Currency (2013) ▪ The Name of the Wind Playing Cards (2014) ▪ Pairs (2014) ▪ TV Series, Movie and Video Game (optioned)|