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Author Topic: "Gears and Grimoirs" Gunpowder discussion Pt 1...  (Read 2578 times)

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Offline gottgen

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"Gears and Grimoirs" Gunpowder discussion Pt 1...
« on: March 04, 2004, 12:15:26 AM »
In the G&G setting, I want to keep the fantasy feel while adding a few steam-age elements. Part of that idea is to merge the use of magic and medievil arms with gunplay and swashbuckling action. I want this game to be fun overall, and I'm looking for opinions/suggestions concerning the choices I've made on this topic and how they'll effect game play. Places marked with a ? are areas still being decided and open to suggestions.

GUNPOWDER and it's origins...

In this world, the creation of gunpowder in its first form has been credited to the early alchemists of northern Aestruda, some 300 years ago. At that time, trade between the two kingdoms of Nasdrin and Grinson Deep and the other northern kingdoms was complicated by ?. The kings of the two secluded kingdoms were desperate for a method of quickly (clearing away material, tunnelling through rock, scaring away the dangerous beasts, etc.) thereby opening up the paths to other regions.

The answer came from the combined efforts of fifteen naturalist/mystics intrigued by the magical properties of various mineral deposits and flora. After six and a half years of serious research, and the accidental deaths of three of the fifteen, the remaining twelve carefully presented to the kings a dark, grainy powder that would ignite on contact with a sufficient heatsource. With enough of the powder in one confined space, they told the kings, little in nature could stand up to the blast it created. They were right.

Questions...

1. Should these men (and women?) be named, or should they remain mythic figures from the past...almost saints of Alchemy?

2. What was the problem that needed such a destructive solution? Did a mountain range need tunneled? A gorge needed blasting to create a land bridge? Maybe getting rid of a massive, hostile forested region that was too big for manpower alone to be feasible?

The cause for the creation of gunpowder needs to have been fairly innocent for this setting...much like the Chinese developed gunpowder for celebration purposes (fireworks), noone really forsaw at this time what the uses would be in the future.
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Offline MoonHunter

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Some Context
« Reply #1 on: March 04, 2004, 12:38:02 AM »
You should look through this post/thread first, so you can get some context upon the setting.

http://www.rpgcitadel.com/guild/index.php?topic=1261.0

As for a comment, I have a problem with someone assigning 15 alchemists many months for some purpose without something very special being required. This means someone had a special purpose in mind. Any such purpose whould defeat your "was made for an innocuous purpose" idea.  

They could of been looking for blasting to clear mountain passes or dig a tunnel.  Blasting powder is much easier to make than gun powder AND is a purpose someone might apply some effort too.  The only bad problem is a short step from blowing up rocks/ mountainsides, to walls and other obstructions.  

Personally, I would make it just one guy... playing around in the King's employment.  Let him create fireworks to entertain the court. Thus it could be a "court secret" of some kind, especially if the Alchemist was actually a mage.  That way everyone was trying to make fireworks via spells, and his secret was safe.  Have one of his apprentices use the powder to blow a rockslide free or something to save some people.  Once people realize the powder has other potential, then you can get into the complicated issues of what blasting powder is used for.
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Offline gottgen

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Well...not THAT innocent. :)
« Reply #2 on: March 04, 2004, 01:12:18 AM »
Thanks for the reply.  

I didn't mean it would be something so irrelevant as fireworks...only that it would not be developed for nefarious purposes.  I pictured it as something created for constructive uses in a time of need.

You might be right about 15 men...but the thinking was that the kingdoms were failing and something needed done quickly.  Since this was something never attempted before, and this was an early time for Alchemy itself, I figured it would take some manpower to find a solution as fast as possible.
What MIGHT need changing is the length of time it TOOK them.  Much faster, maybe?
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Offline Strolen

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"Gears and Grimoirs" Gunpowder discussion Pt 1...
« Reply #3 on: March 04, 2004, 02:12:53 AM »
Gunpowder seems to be the kicker at the moment so I will join in a little bit.

I will take this point first:
6.5 years of research on a way to clear away material, tunnelling through rock, scaring away the dangerous beasts, etc.

From what is written the above, this is what I assume, that they spent that time trying to develop a way to do those things and almost solely concentrated on that.

I think you should stick with it being found on accident. Perhaps a small culture, like make China a village in your world, has been using the powder for years to scare away spirits and animals. Somebody discovers the town and their spirit scarer and realizes what it could be used for. It can be introduced to the 15 and they can perfect it.

I really don't like the idea of actually *trying* to develop something like gunpowder. Not that credible anyway that they would spend 6 years together mixing stuff without discovering a crapload of other stuff as well, plus they would probably want to work independently anyway I would think, traveling, exploring, looking for new dirt and flora to mix.... Why would a bunch of alchemists be thinking they could create something that could move mountains?

I just don't find myself able to swallow that a group would think they could solve the mentioned problems by mixing a couple things together to make it explode or to make something that could create tunnels? Surely they wouldn't think mixing stuff would create something like that...especially if there is magic in the world, that would be the first step. And if the kingdoms depended on making tunnels or passes then there would be tons of mechanical inventions for that purpose, magical creations, new boats to go farther, and simply physical labor creating some king of road over the mountains somehow. Six years is enough time to get quite a bit accomplished, maybe not finished, but at least a start of a few different attempts.

=======

Some interesting points I found about gunpowder that could be neat and useful in a gunpowder setting...

Quote
Early makers simply pounded quantities of the three ingredients into powder and mixed them according to their own particular recipes. No finite method of proving the product existed; quality was judged by the loudness of the bang it made! Such a method of 'proof' seems funny to us today, but it was not quite so funny 500 years ago; 14th century Gunners were well aware of the effect of the sound of guns on an uninitiated enemy. They frightened not only the horses but also the ignorant and superstitious soldiery who saw guns as instruments of the devil - and Gunners as his henchmen!

Known as 'serpentine' (in allusion to an early type of ordnance) or 'meal' early gunpowder possessed several faults; firstly, jolting during transport caused the ingredients to separate, the heaviest ending up on the bottom of the barrel, the lightest at the top. The ingredients were therefore often carried separately and mixed on the gun position, creating in the process a highly explosive dust easily ignited by spark or friction.

Serpentine also absorbed moisture from the air to a degree which greatly reduced its efficiency, or in bad cases rendered it useless.

http://riv.co.nz/rnza/hist/gun/gunpdr.htm

This is a good quick history too http://www.pyrouniverse.com/history.htm I like that one and where I got spirits above.

An aside---don't call it gunpowder in game.

And if they were secluded....how did they become a kingdom? Perhaps instead of secluded you may want to define their needs as new trade routes to other impossible to get to lands. And movement by boat was much more economical and easier so they have to be inland lands they want to trade with or they themselves are somehow trapped inland...which will need a whole new story to support that as well.

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Offline gottgen

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See, this is the kind of thing I need...
« Reply #4 on: March 04, 2004, 10:20:20 PM »
Sometimes I get too involved in solving the big problem to catch the little slip-ups...hence the "secluded kingdoms."  Thank you for catching that.

Quote

I really don't like the idea of actually *trying* to develop something like gunpowder. Not that credible anyway that they would spend 6 years together mixing stuff without discovering a crapload of other stuff as well, plus they would probably want to work independently anyway I would think, traveling, exploring, looking for new dirt and flora to mix.... Why would a bunch of alchemists be thinking they could create something that could move mountains?

I just don't find myself able to swallow that a group would think they could solve the mentioned problems by mixing a couple things together to make it explode or to make something that could create tunnels? Surely they wouldn't think mixing stuff would create something like that...especially if there is magic in the world, that would be the first step. And if the kingdoms depended on making tunnels or passes then there would be tons of mechanical inventions for that purpose, magical creations, new boats to go farther, and simply physical labor creating some king of road over the mountains somehow. Six years is enough time to get quite a bit accomplished, maybe not finished, but at least a start of a few different attempts.


As far as "making" vs. "discovering" black powder, I really think it could go either way.  The men would be working together because the kings were paying them handsomly to find a solution.  As far as magic goes, I haven't really touched on the system here yet, but it would really not be workable to use magic on a mountain.  

Magic in this world is potent, but it's usually powered by the user unless a mana "battery" of some type is used...and mana batteries with that much energy aren't common.  It would probably take someone with centuries of experience and vast resources of energy to just wave away a mountain, or even tunnel through it.  In your favor, though, I really should run some tests with the game system and see exactly what it would take, magically.

And mechanically, remember this is several centuries ago.  The setting now has steam engines and the capacity to do many things, but they were much more limited back then.  Imagine several hundred Englishmen of the 1400's, with their technology, trying to tunnel through a large mountain or fill in great areas of marshland.  And yeah, 6 years is enough to get several projects STARTED, but how long would they take to complete?  As I conceded before, though, I do think that I should shorten the time it took to come up with a solution.

And please don't take these points as my attempt to shoot down your criticisms!  I just want to let you understand where I'm coming from as much as possible, so all the mistakes I'm making can be corrected, but at the same time trying to keep things in line with how I want them as much as possible.
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Offline MoonHunter

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"Gears and Grimoirs" Gunpowder discussion Pt 1...
« Reply #5 on: March 05, 2004, 12:11:16 AM »
It just hit me.  I have a question.

Is who created gunpowder/ blasting powder relavent to the current G&G campaign?  

It is good to create a consistant history for your game world. It adds verisimilitude to your world, but does it have any impact on the world today?  The pump was created by Archimedes? Does that fact effect anyone today, thousands of years later?  What about who created the automobile?  Do you know who did it?  Do you care?  All you need to know about its history is who is making the Cars today and in the recent past.  

Do you see where I am going with this?

You said you wanted these people to be the thing of Alchemical legends.  That implies they invented the stuff quite a while ago, or a least a generation.  By now, the story -especially if powder was a state secret or guild secret for a time-  has probably been so shifted around that a time traveller looking for the event will probably not find it, because the details past down via "history" are not what actually happened, but what they wished happened.  

So who controls powder now, and how is it used?  Is it an open secret, a guild secret, a state secret, or anyone with some skill in alchemy can make the stuff because the forumla and process was included in their education?
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Offline Strolen

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Re: See, this is the kind of thing I need...
« Reply #6 on: March 05, 2004, 01:43:01 AM »
Quote from: "gottgen"

As far as "making" vs. "discovering" black powder, I really think it could go either way.  The men would be working together because the kings were paying them handsomly to find a solution.  As far as magic goes, I haven't really touched on the system here yet, but it would really not be workable to use magic on a mountain.  


If the king is paying then why on earth would he ever imagine that " fifteen naturalist/mystics" would be able to move mountains or make tunnels? It just doesn't fit my personal logic.

Quote from: "gottgen"

Magic in this world is potent, but it's usually powered by the user unless a mana "battery" of some type is used...and mana batteries with that much energy aren't common.  It would probably take someone with centuries of experience and vast resources of energy to just wave away a mountain, or even tunnel through it.  In your favor, though, I really should run some tests with the game system and see exactly what it would take, magically.


If the king thinks that some naturalists and mystics have a chance at moving mountains, why would he ignore the fact that magic may not be being used to its full potential? At least magic has some mystic reactions that are dictated by the abstrac which leaves possibilities wide open. But mixing different elements?...what experience is there to point the king to that solution?

Quote from: "gottgen"

And mechanically, remember this is several centuries ago.  The setting now has steam engines and the capacity to do many things, but they were much more limited back then.  Imagine several hundred Englishmen of the 1400's, with their technology, trying to tunnel through a large mountain or fill in great areas of marshland.  And yeah, 6 years is enough to get several projects STARTED, but how long would they take to complete?  As I conceded before, though, I do think that I should shorten the time it took to come up with a solution.


Again, exactly my point...at least they can fell and work in the tangible trying to great something, anything, that would be useable to help in the creation of passes or something. This is still more realistic then gathering some mystics to mix stuff together in the hope of what? Just because it would take a long time to complete doesn't mean they wouldn't start tons of projects to try and help their situation. Nothing happens overnight and nobody with common sense is going to put all the eggs in one basket in the hope that some dirt mixed together will create big explosions. There is no precedent for them to think that this is even vaguely possible. The physical is where most of their efforts would be focused and a surprise accident of the creation of a black powder that can explode would be like EUREKA...but an *accident* I think it MUST be. And probably made by somebody mixing poultices for wounds or rashes....that kind of mixing is the only kind that makes sense to me.

Quote from: "gottgen"

And please don't take these points as my attempt to shoot down your criticisms!  I just want to let you understand where I'm coming from as much as possible, so all the mistakes I'm making can be corrected, but at the same time trying to keep things in line with how I want them as much as possible.


Never criticisms. Brainstorming. I am more then happy to fold my ideas as long as I find the outcomes explained to me justified. I just can't comprehend a king sitting in medieval times on his throne rubbing his chin and deciding, "Hey, get some mystics and naturalists together and have the discover a substance that will be able to blow tunnels into mountains." And then he sits backs and waits while his kingdom crumbles around them because they are in the middle of nowhere. A real king would put out an APB and say "ANYBODY THAT HAS ANY IDEA HOW TO SOLVE THIS PROBLEM I WILL REWARD YOU HANDSOMELY" And all the mechanical projects would sprout up, magicians would try and perfect their art....but I don't thing ANY alchemist was even dreaming that they could discover black powder. Maybe trying to find some stuff that mixed will make people fly....but explode?

Are there any tunnels anywhere that he would even think that it was possible? Does the world have dwarves? How do they dig?

And Moonhunter brings up valid points as well. Did anybody care where gunpowder was discovered even in our 1400's?

Might be easier to just say, "Gunpowder was discovered in such and such kingdom around such and such time" and move on.

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Offline gottgen

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Origin of black powder: 2.0...
« Reply #7 on: March 05, 2004, 09:47:50 PM »
I can see your point that it would have been weird to just say, "Let's make a powder you can light and blow things up."  They would need some event that let them even arrive at the concept.  

Before I go into the re-worked idea, I also agree that how it began isn't as important as where we are now.  But, I do like to have references available for many things from the past as flavor material and possible story starters.  I feel that the more details are available, the more tools you give the players to immerse themselves.

800 years ago

During a celebration, a few proto-Alchemists looking for funds for research trips got together and used a spark-producing powder they had recently discovered to create a light show to impress the king with their crafts.  Pleased and fairly impressed with the men, the King granted them some funds with the condition that anything they created was brought to his advisors' attention before being taken elsewhere. The "flash-stick" shows became an annual event and have carried on ever since.

This powder was the first incarnation.  It created a bright flash and a loud bang, but was believed to have very little destructive power.  Even in decent amounts, the biggest danger was that the sparks would catch something on fire, cause some minor burns or possibly put out an eye.  But, this was when the powder was still made in small batches within days of use.  When word spread and export began, the demand for larger amounts and longer storage changed things a bit.

Surrounding lands heard of flash-sticks, and they soon became one of the kingdom's larger export goods.  Not only were they popular for many celebration purposes, but several townships on the fronteers found them very useful in scaring away dangerous predators or the occational band of savages. Soon, weights of powder were measured in stones instead of ounces, and dozens of large crates of flash-sticks were being shipped out weekly.  The alchemists, enjoying the fruits of their labor and the favor of the king, trained others as Court Powdersmiths and moved on to other pursuits.

Basically, after this, I envision an accident with a large amount of powder, being stored in a shed or a cart, and a stray spark or a deliberate fire.  OR, maybe the son of a noble or fairly intelegent soldier decides to hold his flash-stick in a FIST instead of an open hand?  This could give someone the idea of the potential this powder has.
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Offline MoonHunter

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Okay... we are starting with flashpowder
« Reply #8 on: March 06, 2004, 12:36:46 AM »
If this is the original material, then ignition grade powder (firestarters) and blasting powder would be the next possible options.

These are just variations in formulations.  Color would be a first invention, by putting odd things in the mix, you get colors.  Copper for green, Iron for red, and so on.

In an attempt to get a brighter burn or more water resistant powder, they would try other formulations and addatives. Somebody would stumble across the more powerful powders or the odd uses for them.  

Firestarters (a packed slow burning, but hot powder) would be created.  

If someone wants to throw these into the air, as they explode... (probably happened once as an accident, now people are trying to do it on purpose), blasting powder in morters would soon occur.  

You know that one noble who sees such a display, will see the potential.  The military options start as a "morter" would fire fireworks over a city wall, to set fire to things.  Even if he has to fling it with a catterpult, it will begin.

Then someone would ask you to build a morter, with blasting powder, to take out doors, walls, or cause havoc inside.

Once the technology gets "loose", it is a rapid progression from there.  You need a serious cultural reason to prevent it from happening.  

In China, there were no foes that had stationary cities/ forts.  There was nothing to target with explosives (Mulan to the contrary).  So there was no perceived military need.  

In Europe or any cultural area where their are civilized foes, with stationary cities/ forts, the use of black powder weapons becomes an obvious conclusion... a perceived military need.

Thus what keeps it out of military uses, especially if nobles are the primary audiences for this entertainement?
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Offline gottgen

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Very good question...
« Reply #9 on: March 06, 2004, 01:34:52 AM »
I'll need to think about that a bit, but there are a few options that spring to mind...

1. The originating kingdom itself is pacifist in nature.  Perhaps the kings there have realized its use, but decided against exploring it and keep the recipe to its creation secret for as long as they can...until someone else gets the formula somehow.  This wouldn't keep anyone from buying it and trying to do something on their own; but without the original recipe, it would be difficult to tinker with it much to make it more powerful.  Also, any word that such things were being worked on would result in no more powder being sold to the offending party.

This could have led to a war more recently, when someone decided to TAKE the powder's secrets for their own uses.

2. Maybe there WAS no obstruction to this happening.  If the time of its creation were moved up to a hundred years or so in the past, things would catch up to the present level of technology in the campaign fairly quickly.
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Offline Silas the Destroyer

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"Gears and Grimoirs" Gunpowder discussion Pt 1...
« Reply #10 on: March 12, 2004, 01:16:48 AM »
I used gunpowder in one of my campaigns as a special reward.  I had an archer who used exceptional ingenuity in a particular situation, so I change a random treasure into a "Westerman Handcannon", some "Dragon Ash", and "Shot Orbs".  His character was so "overjoyed" (Man, I love critical misses in d20) that he ended up collapsing a cavern entrance.  "So much for THAT adventure..." ^^
"Something is out there; a Kobold, perhaps?  No, I could hear them a mile away."  I slip my crossbow out of my pack.  "I must… kill it."  The bolt flies swift and sure.  "Once the writhing ceases, I can go see what it was..."

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