Alternative Powders

In a fantasy setting, there's no reason for standard black powder to be the only type of propellant around. Different regions may well have developed other substances that either perform better under local conditions or use alternative local materials.


An extremely grainy seafoam-green gel paste that reacts to electric shock, effervescence is the aquatic answer to black powder. Firearms designed for effervescence are called Quartzlocks, as they use a similar flintlock-style mechanism with a different mineral to produce a piezoelectric shock rather than a flammable spark—as such, they are incapable of using standard black powder. Effervescence can be used in a standard black powder firearm by lacing the priming charge with certain elemental salts, though the cost of such a method can add up.

Typically used by underwater species and those who spend their time on the coast, effervescence lends itself well to the situations that black powder performs poorly in, and becomes useless in places where black powder is at its most reliable. Firearms using effervescence in dry climates or temperatures above around 30 degrees Celsius are as prone to misfiring as black powder used in the rain.

When fired underwater, effervescence produces a spectacular burst of bubbles which expand as they rise, but when fired on land they tend to spray an unpleasant gout of rapidly evaporating slime, with some remainder drooling from the muzzle afterwards. When fired at melee ranges, the spray from effervescence causes minor acid burns that are a rather distinctive form of muzzle flash, as opposed to the burns produced by black powder at similar ranges. Effervescence becomes inert and useless if it spends 24 hours without being submerged in water or moistened, or if it takes any fire damage. If exposed to an electric shock, effervescence detonates with the same amount of force as an equivalent volume of black powder. Effervescence is completely compatible with powder additives, although the mixing process can be a little messy.

In aquatic and coastal communities, effervescence can be found at the same price or cheaper than black powder, but it's more expensive to get further inland. It's typically packed with sponges for shipping and above-water storage.

Fairy Powder

Created by woodland fey, fairy powder actually encompasses two different kinds of powder: seelie and unseelie powder. Seelie powder is a blend of sunrise orange-and-pink shades, while unseelie powder is midnight blues with streaks of moonlit greys. Both function much like black powder, but don't suffer any problems when wet and can be ignited with the application of any elemental damage, meaning they work just as well with quartzlock firearms as they do with normal flintlocks.

Fairy powder draws its strength from the solar cycle, with seelie powder only functioning during the day and unseelie powder functioning only at night. Firearms loaded with either powder that are fired during the wrong time of day simply fail to go off. The charge remains good until fired during the appropriate time of day. Frequent users of fairy powder tend to favor double-barreled firearms, with a different type of powder loaded into each barrel. Fairy powder sounds like fireworks when it goes off, and it sprays a vibrant, whimsical pattern of neon-bright multicoloured lights as its muzzle flash—although harmless, being on the receiving end of such a flash at melee ranges can be quite disorienting. Powder additives work normally with fairy powder, but often result in vividly different muzzle flash light patterns.

Outside of the reclusive fey communities that produce it, fairy powder usually costs double the price of black powder.


A solid, usually cylindrical pellet, knockrocks are a manufactured form of solid propellant that doesn't react at all to heat or cold, electricity, or acids. In fact, in their normal state, they're completely inert and not good for much. When a few drops of mineral oil are applied, however, they become extremely sensitive to impacts. Knockrocks can be used in both flintlocks and quartzlocks, but most regular users prefer flintlocks as the touch hole makes it easy to drip mineral oil into the chamber once the shot is loaded, keeping it inert until readying it for fire. Quartzlocks lack a touch hole, and the mineral oil must be applied down the muzzle of the gun—usually also in larger quantity, as it needs to soak through the wadding and past the shot or bullet in order for it to reach and activate the knockrock. When performing this action underwater, the quartzlock must be pointed downward as the mineral oil will try to rise.

Once a knockrock is loaded and primed with mineral oil, the impact from the mechanism firing provides enough of a shock to set it off. This sensitivity makes knockrocks not popular with frontline combatants, but acceptable for snipers, wall guards, and others who can rely on firing from a sheltered location. Their total imperviousness to weather and other firing conditions makes them a valuable backup propellant, and many forts tend to have a few cases of knockrocks stashed away in case of a rainy day. For all of their sensitivity, primed knockrocks never fail to detonate when the trigger is pulled, leading some snipers to enjoy their reliability in that regard.

Knockrocks cannot be modified with powder additives after their creation, but if created with powder additives, can benefit from them. Knockrocks usually cost a little bit less than black powder. The mineral oil is often, but not always, sold separately.

Powder Additives

Different substances added to propellants can cause it to function differently. Powder additives are usually mixed in while loading a firearm, in the case of powder-based propellants, but in other cases must be worked in ahead of time. They don't replace the need for propellant. The amount of powder additive needed is proportional to the amount of propellant being used, so larger firearms need more additive per shot to achieve the same effects. Most powder additives affect the chances of the firearm misfiring. Only one type of additive may be used per shot.

Pixie Dust

Sometimes literal pixie dust, other times a blend of alchemical powders, pixie dust silences the firearm when it goes off. Using too much can create a sort of metaphysical backdraft, which may render the user mute or semi-mute for a minute or two. Pixie dust makes firearms slightly more prone to misfiring, but doesn't affect the severity of misfires that occur.

Powdered Roarore

By very carefully crushing a specific alchemical substance, normally used to produce loud bangs on impact, this can be added to propellant to dramatically increase the volume of the shot. Anyone too close to the firearm when it goes off risks short-term deafness. Powdered roarore is popular for being used to start competitions, or when trying to cause chaos and disarray in places where it's unexpected. Any sane user will make sure to wear hearing protection. Much like pixie dust, powdered roarore slightly increases the chance of, but not the severity of misfires.

Smokey Powder

Using much of the same materials found in smoke bombs, smokey powder causes the shot to be accompanied by an opaque gout of smoke. This completely obstructs vision, and tends to result in a bout of harmless coughing to anyone caught in or upwind of the cloud. The smoke tends to dissipate within half a minute, although the presence of wind or unusually calm air can affect that time frame. Smokey powder is more likely to cause misfires than pixie dust or powdered roarore, but doesn't increase the severity.

Elemental Salts

Mixing in distilled elemental essences to the powder can confer additional elemental damage on the shot itself. Available in fire, frost, acidic, or electric variations, the presence and nature of elemental salts are immediately visible by the effect they have on the muzzle flash of any type of firearm using them. Elemental salts don't increase the odds of a misfire, but if a misfire DOES occur, elemental salts will make the misfire more dangerous and destructive than it otherwise might have been.

Consecrated Saltpetre

Similar in principle to holy water, consecrated saltpetre is particular pure saltpetre that has been blessed by a holy order. Shots modified with consecrated saltpetre are highly effective against ghosts and other spirits, denying them the protection against physical harm that they often enjoy. Consecrated saltpetre does not affect the frequency nor the severity of misfires.

Alternative Bullets

Although lead is by far the most common material used for bullets and shot, other materials do exist, and have their own advantages.

Bullet / Shot, Coral

Sometimes actual coral that has been carved into a bullet or crushed into pellets, other times small shells filled with resin. Although less accurate and slightly less damaging than lead, the sea salt that such shots are caked in make the resulting injuries disproportionately painful, and the coarse texture and irregular shapes can lead them to inflict further damage if not removed from the wound prior to vigorous physical activity. Among coastal communities such ammunition is very inexpensive.

Bullet, Golden

Compared to lead, gold is considerably heavier by volume, and also less malleable. Bullets made of gold pack more inertia and are less likely to deform and deflect off of metal armor, making them more likely to land telling blows. This extra weight and hardness increases the odds of a misfire though, and the fact that they are gold means such shots tend to be quite expensive. They are particularly favored by nobles and those who want to flaunt their wealth.

Bullet, Jade

Carved from brilliant green stone, often adorned with detailed etchings. The metaphysical properties of the material allow it to overcome the defenses of many supernatural beings, especially those of extraplanar origin—a jade bullet can bypass the defenses of an angel as easily as those of a devil. Due to their hand-carved conical nature, all but the most expensive jade bullets suffer a slight accuracy penalty.

Shot, Obsidian

Black volcanic glass can be crushed into razor-sharp shards and used as shot in any firearm capable of firing shot. Although the flat, irregular nature of the shards makes them inaccurate and carry less raw force, they can cause horrific bleeding. In areas where obsidian is found locally such shot is inexpensive, but when imported it tends to fetch a high price.

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