Steve Jackson Games - Site Navigation
Home General Info Follow Us Search Illuminator Store Forums What's New Other Games Ogre GURPS Munchkin Our Games: Home

Go Back   Steve Jackson Games Forums > Roleplaying > GURPS

Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
Old 06-21-2019, 09:31 PM   #1
Sorenant
 
Sorenant's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jan 2015
Default [BS] Lack of Fossil Fuel and Firearm Manufacturing

I was brainstorming about an alternate Yrth where there were no suppression of modern technology, notably firearms, and how it would change the setting.
To avoid making it Earth 2, I decided to assume that Yrth contains no fossil fuel to power modern large scale industry. I also want to leave charcoal out of equation to avoid it becoming another steampunk setting, but I found no good explanation for it beside "the elves really doesn't like the idea of chopping trees en masse and gets aggressive".
Regardless, assuming Yrth inhabitants embraced knowledge imported from Earth, how far technologically could it go without industry? I suppose unpowered or powered by primitive drives (like waterwheel) machinery could build most things, but at much higher costs. I'm sure digital components are right out of the window.
Another question is at what point would firearm development would stagnate? I'm no expert but watching the manufacturing process of modern ammo makes me think those requires a lot of precision to be crafted. Maybe machinists could still make them, but again at much slower speeds that (I think) would prevent its use in automatic weapons.
Related to the previous question, could magic make a new type of firearms possible? Maybe some sort of "magilock"? I know it's a pretty broad question, but I want to hear all ideas.
Sorenant is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 06-21-2019, 10:25 PM   #2
Rupert
 
Rupert's Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2004
Location: Wellington, NZ
Default Re: [BS] Lack of Fossil Fuel and Firearm Manufacturing

If you can make steel melee weapons and armour, you can make guns (in terms of having metal available). The existence of iron/steel weapons and armour says there's a fairly large charcoal-making industry already. Medieval Europe was massively deforested well before guns were a major product because of demand for steel - it's one reason why kings and nobles were so touchy about forestry rights.

If steel production is fairly limited, guns and cheap plate won't transform the battlefields the way they did in Europe's renaissance and early modern periods. They'll be expensive tools for specialists, and full metal sets of armour will remain the province of the wealthy knights.

However, that doesn't mean that the guns won't steadily improve, and them being a specialist tool will probably mean that improvements will spread through the user-base faster - if guns are rare, expensive, and used only by professional hunters and snipers, it's a lot more reasonable to kit all your guys with the latest in rifled wheel-locks than if you're trying to outfit an army of 100,000.

The original metallic cartridges were hand-made, so lack of mass-production industrial plants doesn't preclude them. You can hand-make guns to use cartridges and bullets of consistent size (which will probably be the hardest things to make in quantity without serious industrial plant). As for automatic weapons, simple ones are actually simpler than semi-automatics or magazine-fed bolt-actions, so Sten guns and PPS-43s are possible, probably using black powder in a large bore round (.44 long colt or similar) to get good performance and give reasonable fouling resistance, though smokeless is possible. Such guns will be great for mowing down commoners, but a full plate harness would provide decent protection (but not from rifle fire, but as long as that remains limited, it's all good).

That's one possible way it could go, anyway.
__________________
Rupert Boleyn

"A pessimist is an optimist with a sense of history."
Rupert is online now   Reply With Quote
Old 06-21-2019, 11:44 PM   #3
(E)
 
Join Date: Jul 2014
Location: New Zealand.
Default Re: [BS] Lack of Fossil Fuel and Firearm Manufacturing

Match locks and wheel locks may be inconvenient/expensive enough for a version of the create fire/ignite fire spell to take their place in early firearms. If this does happen there may not be the impetus required to develop flint locks.

Other simple spells might remove the need to clean out black powder residue. This may decrease reload time. It may also (arguably) remove some of the reason to progress past black powder.

Conceivably this could make something like the whitworth rifle (hexagonal bullets, very accurate, but prone to fouling) represent the pinnacle of mage-lock firearms. Spells to do with measurement could also increase the accuracy of early firearms, both directly as enchantments on a weapon and as engineering tools.

Having even cheap enchantments required to manufacture a firearm makes for some interesting ramifications.

[Edit] Air rifles might also be greatly improved with a few simple spells.

Early cannons would benefit from a utility mage.
__________________
Waiting for inspiration to strike......
And spending too much time thinking about farming for RPGs
Contributor to Citadel at Nordvörn

Last edited by (E); 06-22-2019 at 12:38 AM.
(E) is online now   Reply With Quote
Old 06-22-2019, 05:00 AM   #4
WingedKagouti
 
Join Date: Oct 2007
Default Re: [BS] Lack of Fossil Fuel and Firearm Manufacturing

Quote:
Originally Posted by (E) View Post
Match locks and wheel locks may be inconvenient/expensive enough for a version of the create fire/ignite fire spell to take their place in early firearms. If this does happen there may not be the impetus required to develop flint locks.
It seems to me that people who think mages are too expensive to hire for these tasks may be the ones who will look for non-magical solutions to the issues with early firearms. Or maybe those who don't trust mages. Or those who want a non-magical backup in case the weapons are needed in a No Mana zone or in case something happens to the mages.

It'll likely only take one incident where the magic or mages in question were a liability, for the leaders of an army to want to look into non-magical solutions.

Unless Magery 0 is common enough that you could potentially hire several hundreds of people with the ability to learn the spells needed in most large cities, enough gun-mages to support a small elite force are going to be more expensive than outfitting the entire army with guns. Some will certainly jump at the opportunity, but most would likely prefer a safer path than joining an army in most circumstances.

What feels more likely is mages setting themselves up as manufacturers of high quality guns, using Shaping spells along with other utility spells like Measurement, Find Weakness, or Enlarge Object (for precision work). Or researching ways to make it easier for themselves to do whatever tasks their job requires. TL-less versions of Schematic and Reveal Function would very likely be attempted to make it easier to understand the technology that does make it to the world. If you have a modern firearm and understand how it's put together, there's a high chance it becomes a lot easier to make improvements to the weapons you can make.
WingedKagouti is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 06-22-2019, 10:27 AM   #5
malloyd
 
Join Date: Jun 2006
Default Re: [BS] Lack of Fossil Fuel and Firearm Manufacturing

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sorenant View Post
Regardless, assuming Yrth inhabitants embraced knowledge imported from Earth, how far technologically could it go without industry? I suppose unpowered or powered by primitive drives (like waterwheel) machinery could build most things, but at much higher costs. I'm sure digital components are right out of the window.
I'm not so sure of that. Note that most light manufacturing industries started with water power, and it continued to power the majority of them in the US until quite a bit later than you probably think. The real takeoff of coal mining isn't until 1895 or 1900. Of particular significance for your issue is the first two big US armories were placed where they are entirely for the water power (Springfield is just above the first fall on the Connecticut river, Harper's Ferry in the west Virginia hills at the junction of the Potomac and Shenandoah). If it was built in the 19th century without tons of iron, it probably didn't need any fossil fuels to produce.

Fossil fuels make energy quite a bit cheaper, but note that energy cost is seldom the dominant piece of the price of most manufactures, and that water probably *still* generates 10% of the world's energy. I don't think I'd call a world with only 10% as much manufactured stuff as ours "non-industrial".

Edit - and on the issue of cutting trees, this is actually one of the major disconnects between Yrth (and most fantasy settings) and the real middle ages. In the real world the forests within walking distance of any settled place were *managed* forests, not wild lands. Elves weren't what limited you cutting them, it was their current owners, who had a plan for when they were going to cut them and for what. The population density of Yrth is tiny compared to medieval Eurasia, you don't actually need to cut much of its forest to supply quite a lot of wood per capita.
__________________
--
MA Lloyd

Last edited by malloyd; 06-22-2019 at 10:41 AM.
malloyd is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 06-22-2019, 10:33 AM   #6
Sorenant
 
Sorenant's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jan 2015
Default Re: [BS] Lack of Fossil Fuel and Firearm Manufacturing

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rupert View Post
If you can make steel melee weapons and armour, you can make guns (in terms of having metal available). The existence of iron/steel weapons and armour says there's a fairly large charcoal-making industry already. Medieval Europe was massively deforested well before guns were a major product because of demand for steel - it's one reason why kings and nobles were so touchy about forestry rights.

If steel production is fairly limited, guns and cheap plate won't transform the battlefields the way they did in Europe's renaissance and early modern periods. They'll be expensive tools for specialists, and full metal sets of armour will remain the province of the wealthy knights.
Very good point I was missing. I don't want to limit steel production, so I suppose steam engines are inevitable, and increased human logging activity antagonizing elves makes an interesting plot hook.
Alternatively, Spaceships is a completely different genre but SS7 contains Mana Engines which requires no fuel as it gathers ambient magical energy. This could work as a rising new fantastic renewable technology that's more reliable than its real counterparts. On one side it kinda starts making the "lack of fossil fuel" moot, though you could say it's still inefficient and far from capable of powering industries and urban centers, but on the other hand it creates a new interesting political dynamics as rulers starts seeking high mana areas to set up their new industries and research labs.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rupert View Post
However, that doesn't mean that the guns won't steadily improve, and them being a specialist tool will probably mean that improvements will spread through the user-base faster - if guns are rare, expensive, and used only by professional hunters and snipers, it's a lot more reasonable to kit all your guys with the latest in rifled wheel-locks than if you're trying to outfit an army of 100,000.
Speaking of armies, would the supernatural threats in Yrth affect the value of firearms? What I means is that volleyfire against Abydos' skeleton knights won't be really effective, and mostly useless against insubstantial foes. I think it wouldn't, though, as these enemies are fairly rare and there's no reason a division specialized in dealing with those wouldn't exist. At best sword bayonets would be a little more popular.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rupert View Post
The original metallic cartridges were hand-made, so lack of mass-production industrial plants doesn't preclude them. You can hand-make guns to use cartridges and bullets of consistent size (which will probably be the hardest things to make in quantity without serious industrial plant).
I've been watching some videos about ammo making, both industrial and hand made, and I had the same impression as what you're telling me. Making ammo is straightforward, the hard part is making it in bulk.
The other thing that drew my attention is the primer, it's a very small but important part that I all the loaders I've seem used ready-made ones. Granted, all of them were using "garage" tools, no one had specialized machinery like, say, a press.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rupert View Post
As for automatic weapons, simple ones are actually simpler than semi-automatics or magazine-fed bolt-actions, so Sten guns and PPS-43s are possible, probably using black powder in a large bore round (.44 long colt or similar) to get good performance and give reasonable fouling resistance, though smokeless is possible. Such guns will be great for mowing down commoners, but a full plate harness would provide decent protection (but not from rifle fire, but as long as that remains limited, it's all good).
Are automatic guns still a good idea if you can't mass produce ammo? If you can only get one or two reloads per campaign I'd guess you'd be so careful with it that might have been a better idea to get a semi-auto.
I don't know who modern gunpowder is made, but Yrth has fantasy alchemy on their side so I don't think it's out of reach for them. In fact, while looking up about gunpowders to reply to this post I was reminded of the concept of caseless ammo, which might be perfect for Yrth. Sprinkly some magic on the issues real caseless ammo has and it might make manufacturing easier.




Quote:
Originally Posted by (E) View Post
Match locks and wheel locks may be inconvenient/expensive enough for a version of the create fire/ignite fire spell to take their place in early firearms. If this does happen there may not be the impetus required to develop flint locks.

Other simple spells might remove the need to clean out black powder residue. This may decrease reload time. It may also (arguably) remove some of the reason to progress past black powder.

Having even cheap enchantments required to manufacture a firearm makes for some interesting ramifications.

Quote:
Originally Posted by WingedKagouti View Post
It seems to me that people who think mages are too expensive to hire for these tasks may be the ones who will look for non-magical solutions to the issues with early firearms. Or maybe those who don't trust mages. Or those who want a non-magical backup in case the weapons are needed in a No Mana zone or in case something happens to the mages.

It'll likely only take one incident where the magic or mages in question were a liability, for the leaders of an army to want to look into non-magical solutions.

Unless Magery 0 is common enough that you could potentially hire several hundreds of people with the ability to learn the spells needed in most large cities, enough gun-mages to support a small elite force are going to be more expensive than outfitting the entire army with guns. Some will certainly jump at the opportunity, but most would likely prefer a safer path than joining an army in most circumstances.
I like Kromm's view that Magery N is as common as IQ+N. It probably makes Magery 0 fairly common, but I agree with WingedKagouti that it's still hardly optimal to depend on user's magical abilities to fire a gun. Even if you got twenty thousand men with IQ10 and Magery 0 to be your gunners, 200 hours training them "Ignite Fire" (or similar entry spell that can fire the gun) would only result in SL-8, which is nothing but useless.
Allowing a powers-based approach could partially solve this, as Ignition perk is much more reliable and technically doesn't require Magery, but the problem with no mana zones still exists.

Quote:
Originally Posted by (E) View Post
Conceivably this could make something like the whitworth rifle (hexagonal bullets, very accurate, but prone to fouling) represent the pinnacle of mage-lock firearms. Spells to do with measurement could also increase the accuracy of early firearms, both directly as enchantments on a weapon and as engineering tools.

Having even cheap enchantments required to manufacture a firearm makes for some interesting ramifications.

[Edit] Air rifles might also be greatly improved with a few simple spells.
Quote:
Originally Posted by WingedKagouti View Post
What feels more likely is mages setting themselves up as manufacturers of high quality guns, using Shaping spells along with other utility spells like Measurement, Find Weakness, or Enlarge Object (for precision work). Or researching ways to make it easier for themselves to do whatever tasks their job requires. TL-less versions of Schematic and Reveal Function would very likely be attempted to make it easier to understand the technology that does make it to the world. If you have a modern firearm and understand how it's put together, there's a high chance it becomes a lot easier to make improvements to the weapons you can make.
Reading about Whitworth rifles was very interesting, and I really like the idea of alternative arms development leading it to be mainstream. From what I've read fouling doesn't seem to be a problem with modern/magical gunpowders, so the remaining issues with it would be that it needs to me match-grade, requiring a lot of precision, and that it prevents (semi)automatic fire as it requires being indexed to the barrel.
Again, WingedKagouti's approach is sensible and can make some things work. Instead of training soldiers to do some magic, it makes more sense to train them to be gunsmiths, using spells to increase their precision and make impossible possible.
I'm really liking the idea of hexagonal rifles shooting caseless ammo, it's pretty wild.
Sorenant is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 06-22-2019, 12:18 PM   #7
Varyon
On Notice
 
Join Date: Jun 2013
Default Re: [BS] Lack of Fossil Fuel and Firearm Manufacturing

If NMZ’s aren’t a significant issue, it might be possible to have magelocks that aren’t reliant on the wielder, via enchanted triggers (enchanting just the trigger lets you transfer to the newest model of rifle when needed). Ideally, an item with such a limited use would have low enough energy requirements for Quick and Dirty enchantment, keeping price low. If not, you could have single-use versions take the place of percussion caps. Without the need for exposed powder (the spell can create the spark in an enclosed environment), you could probably get away with making paper cartridges and loading those straight in, quickening reload time - although with muzzleloaders you’d still need to ram it home.

If NMZ’s are a significant issue, the above isn’t a great option, and you’d probably just have the same sorts of weapon as Earth at a comparable TL, albeit perhaps higher quality due to magical assistance during crafting.

For piercing-resistant foes, I kind of wonder how well a small arm equivalent of chainshot might work. Something akin to a shotgun firing (cutting) flechettes might also be useful. If all else fails, having rifles sturdy enough to be serviceable staves/clubs would be useful, as well as the previously suggested sword bayonet.
__________________
GURPS Overhaul
Varyon is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 06-22-2019, 03:15 PM   #8
WingedKagouti
 
Join Date: Oct 2007
Default Re: [BS] Lack of Fossil Fuel and Firearm Manufacturing

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sorenant View Post
Speaking of armies, would the supernatural threats in Yrth affect the value of firearms? What I means is that volleyfire against Abydos' skeleton knights won't be really effective, and mostly useless against insubstantial foes. I think it wouldn't, though, as these enemies are fairly rare and there's no reason a division specialized in dealing with those wouldn't exist. At best sword bayonets would be a little more popular.
You'd likely have enchanted bullets for certain special enemies if you're expecting to go up against them. It's very likely that any ruler using guns in their armies would commision a mage (or group of mages) to mass enchant a large quantity of bullets with something similar to Spell Arrow. Such a ritual would very likely be researched once firearms become even moderately popular in armies.

These bullets would obviously end up being a lot more expensive than standard ammunition, but it would likely be considered worth it in the right circumstances. If a significant portion of an army's power is invested in guns and the enemy force has a large percentage of piercing resistant units, a 1-hex Explosive Fireball on each bullet could work (and be a spectacular sight). Gun using adventurers would very likely also keep a selection of enchanted bullets for special opponents.

A question that pops into my mind is whether some of the intelligent supernatural entities would use guns themselves. A lich probably would not outfit their skeleton & zombie horde with guns, but it could be an option for their more capable non-incorporeal minions.
WingedKagouti is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 06-22-2019, 04:39 PM   #9
Sorenant
 
Sorenant's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jan 2015
Default Re: [BS] Lack of Fossil Fuel and Firearm Manufacturing

Quote:
Originally Posted by malloyd View Post
snip
I had no idea and it's good to know, thanks for the information. Waterwheels can power a fairly large industry (apparently about half the need of US civil war) and according to the books the area Megalos occupies contains many rivers, maybe enough to supply the needs of the smaller population as you said.
Canon Yrth population is pretty small indeed: B84 says abou 44.3 million, according to wiki Europe's population in 11th century was already larger than that, though interestingly Megalos is much larger than empires of the period, 16th century France comes close (and surpasses it by the time of Louis XIV). So I can see how they would have consumed less wood than real history. However, if we assume modern ideas and politics were introduced and adopted, I think this alternate Yrth's population would be larger due to advanced farming equipments and schools gathering and training mages in plant spells. I think US demographics could be used as reference due to similar size to Ytarria, but I'm not sure how far it would go.
Anyway, industrialization is inevitable regardless of fossil fuels, so it changes a lot of what I've been thinking. They probably start with waterwheels, steam engines causes some turmoils due to increased wood consumption (could plant mages help here? I think Bless Plant could be used here to make managed forests more efficient and supply most or all charcoal needs), the concept of ICE is introduced but lack of fossil fuel would make it moot but other technologies could be adapted to use waterwheels and steam engines. Later on technology to create water turbines could help make Yrth catch up on the modern world by using dams.
Of course, I don't see why the Ytarria residents couldn't contribute and making technologies based on reality but diverged through the addition of magic. I don't want to approach this by making steam engines efficient through some wild application of fire and water magic, I'd rather adopt Mana Engines from Spaceships, steampunk is overused.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Varyon View Post
snip
If we got by default Yrth, the only no mana zone is in the Great Desert.
I like the idea of enchanted primers, but I'm not sure they're feasible. First, as Malloyd pointed industrial production of "normal" bullets is likely to be a possibility, and second default magic enchanting is really inefficient and antiquated, from what I understand you'd have to enchant each primer individually which would be really inefficient (even considering low energy requirement and quick&dirty enchanting) and there's no good way of modernizing it, mages enchanting in TL12 does it the exact same way as they did in TL0, with no difference in potency either. I've considered Metatronic Generator, but it's still quite pricey: Assuming base TL is 6, that it's single use mass production (I'll fiat and say it divides price by 10), and that it weights .003lbs or 1g, then each magic percussion cap would cost around $40. Ouch.


Quote:
Originally Posted by WingedKagouti View Post
snip
Magic bullets are interesting but I don't think it's feasible. According to M65-66, the cost to enchant a bullet with Spell Arrow is contained spell cost*1/10*Max Range, so a TL6 rifle with Max Range of 4,200 with 2EP Explosive Fireball spell would cost 840EP. Considering how slow and technologically static enchanting is, it's absolutely unfeasible. Investing all that resource into developing underbarrel grenade launchers would be much better.
I don't see why skeletons wouldn't be outfitted with guns, early on their lack of fear would make them work great in shot and pike formations, though reloading might be beyond their intelligence (not mechanically as operating Guns is DX based skill, not IQ). Later on they will lack intelligence to make good tactical decisions, but still useful in guard duties (I kinda see them as fantasy combat droids, except they don't say roger-roger).
Sorenant is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 06-22-2019, 07:23 PM   #10
Rupert
 
Rupert's Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2004
Location: Wellington, NZ
Default Re: [BS] Lack of Fossil Fuel and Firearm Manufacturing

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sorenant View Post
Anyway, industrialization is inevitable regardless of fossil fuels, so it changes a lot of what I've been thinking. They probably start with waterwheels, steam engines causes some turmoils due to increased wood consumption (could plant mages help here? I think Bless Plant could be used here to make managed forests more efficient and supply most or all charcoal needs), the concept of ICE is introduced but lack of fossil fuel would make it moot but other technologies could be adapted to use waterwheels and steam engines. Later on technology to create water turbines could help make Yrth catch up on the modern world by using dams.
Well, once you have enough power, you can make liquid fuels from biomass, allowing for more portable steam engines and also internal combustion engines.
Quote:
Of course, I don't see why the Ytarria residents couldn't contribute and making technologies based on reality but diverged through the addition of magic. I don't want to approach this by making steam engines efficient through some wild application of fire and water magic, I'd rather adopt Mana Engines from Spaceships, steampunk is overused.
Steam engines don't imply steampunk. Steam was common in ships until after WWII, and it's still how coal powerplants turn the coal into electricity (and nuclear powerplants are steam engines).
__________________
Rupert Boleyn

"A pessimist is an optimist with a sense of history."
Rupert is online now   Reply With Quote
Reply

Tags
banestorm, firearm, yrth

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Fnords are Off
[IMG] code is Off
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT -6. The time now is 12:34 AM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.9
Copyright ©2000 - 2020, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.