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Old 10-30-2009, 12:14 PM   #41
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Default Re: Emerging smokepowder weapons in my fantasy

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Originally Posted by Asta Kask View Post
One major problem I had with incorporating musketeers into a D&D setting is the presence of fireballs. You have twenty musketeers who carry something very flammable and explosive. Add fireballs to that and you have no more musketeers...
Well, smokepowder is a binary explosive, so if it is carried seperately, that's not a danger. At least not for the supply chain.

As for exploding inside fireballs, well, if the powder is within a sturdy horn, something tells me that human flesh isn't going to come out well from a flame capable of incinerating the powder horn anyway. If your troops are inside a fireball, they are probably done for in any case.
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Old 10-30-2009, 12:17 PM   #42
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Default Re: Emerging smokepowder weapons in my fantasy

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But how long can it take to learn to put an arrow "vaguely over there", which is the goal of volley fire? It certainly won't take years. It shouldn't take months, or, for that matter, weeks. Anyone with experience taking an archery class weigh in?
Again, complete novice here, pulling info out of vague opinions, but...

It's the judgment of distance and the rapid and sustained fire that make good archers so dangerous. All those years of practice have taught them how to estimate how much pull they have to put into a bow to get it to fire a certain distance. And hours and hours of practice have given them the stamina to manage multiple shots per minute, for minute after minute.

****************

I'm starting to wonder WHY smokepowder was so good. I suppose it was made so expensive because D&D doesn't handle firearms very well?
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Old 10-30-2009, 12:22 PM   #43
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Default Re: Emerging smokepowder weapons in my fantasy

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I'm starting to wonder WHY smokepowder was so good. I suppose it was made so expensive because D&D doesn't handle firearms very well?
This is something I'm trying to find out.

If gunpowder wasn't so cheap, would it be adopted at all, other than as a curiosity?

I'm not worried if the answer turns out to be 'no'. That's what I initially believed to be true of the setting and I had never intended there to be any significant military impact from slightly cheaper and more widespread smokepowder.

It's just that I introduced a shipment of experimental weapons as a throwaway piece of colour and the players have run with it to the extent that they are trying to get a government contract to equip at least a regiment of troops (due to having incidental contacts in a region where such weapons can be bought relatively cheaply).

I'm trying to figure out the pros and cons from the point of view of the military planners attenting their demonstration.
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Old 10-30-2009, 01:31 PM   #44
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Default Re: Emerging smokepowder weapons in my fantasy

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Gondites do build them, indeed. But they are master craftsmen, inventors and ideas-men, not pragmatic merchants.

The church of Gond zealously attempts to enforce a divine monopoly on the sale of smokepowder and smokepowder weapons. This means a variety of things, but for starters, they sell small amounts of powder at x20 of the prices that more business-minded alchemists demand. And they only sell their weapons to those who support their monopoly.

This is actually canon, btw.
Huh. I was sure that after the ToT this position of the Gondish church wrt spreading tech, especially smokepowder, was reversed via divine revelation. To be precise, the ToT put Gond in direct contact with the masses, and the god decided to stop being such a jerk. (Presumably, as a god, he had an idea of the eventual equalizing effect firearms and other tech have wrt peasants/aristocracy.)

On reflection, this would break the DnD paradigm fairly quickly if allowed to continue, so I'm not surprised it was reversed. (Assuming I didn't get it wrong in the first place.)

If the current version didn't have the Gondites spreading the powder around, who is doing it?

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Many adventurers have magical items which provide DR and DR 6+ is not uncommon, though. But militia armed with heavy spears or polearms can do 1d+2 imp pretty reliably and even the occasional 1d+4 cut. And having sixty attacks per minute instead of one shot makes a difference.
Mooks get in one to three (if lucky) attacks before getting mowed down in any case. Reload time is not as big a deal in that scenario.

If your crossbows do damage comparable to your muskets however, and are significantly cheaper and already accepted, the muskets are not likely to be adopted at all.

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There are spells such as Firetrap, Explosive Runes and others which can be triggered by a given set of conditions. If you want to be nasty, you can specify your own conditions by casting a metamagic spell and then tying any other spell to it, up to and including the most powerful attack spells.
These are not simple spells, and damage from attack spells is limited. A ribcage full of REF 0.8 powder and a suit of heavy mail over top would be nasty. Not sure of the relative costs of magic vs. powder in your game though, or the limits on and availability of boom spells. (Relatively cheap and available boom spells are effectively military artillery in most cases, and lead to more modern looking armies than the shield walls I've seen you discuss here in the past.)
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Old 10-30-2009, 01:44 PM   #45
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Default Re: Emerging smokepowder weapons in my fantasy

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Originally Posted by Icelander View Post
I'm trying to figure out the pros and cons from the point of view of the military planners attenting their demonstration.
I think that a huge disadvantage is that it is dishonorable. It doesn't require bravery, like lances and swords, because you are at a safe distance. It doesn't require training, like archery or magic. It is a weapon for peasants, and we don't want them[ to be too well armed.

Historically, this was a major stumbling block. It was not unknown for nobles to kill anyone found carrying a crossbow or a firearm.
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Old 10-30-2009, 02:44 PM   #46
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Originally Posted by Asta Kask View Post
I think that a huge disadvantage is that it is dishonorable. It doesn't require bravery, like lances and swords, because you are at a safe distance. It doesn't require training, like archery or magic. It is a weapon for peasants, and we don't want them[ to be too well armed.

Historically, this was a major stumbling block. It was not unknown for nobles to kill anyone found carrying a crossbow or a firearm.
It does require money. The more plutocratic folks (and there are a bunch in FR) would have no problem with that.
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Old 10-30-2009, 04:27 PM   #47
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Default Re: Emerging smokepowder weapons in my fantasy

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Huh. I was sure that after the ToT this position of the Gondish church wrt spreading tech, especially smokepowder, was reversed via divine revelation. To be precise, the ToT put Gond in direct contact with the masses, and the god decided to stop being such a jerk. (Presumably, as a god, he had an idea of the eventual equalizing effect firearms and other tech have wrt peasants/aristocracy.)

On reflection, this would break the DnD paradigm fairly quickly if allowed to continue, so I'm not surprised it was reversed. (Assuming I didn't get it wrong in the first place.)
The church had previously all but forbidden its use, but now no longer enforces that ban. Instead, they hope to be able to leverage their knowledge of the formula and many competent smiths and alchemists into a monopoly position.

They hope to spread out its use, yes, but unfortunately, the clergy are not good businessmen. They equivocate between trying to hand-pick buyers and reaching out to new markets, they price themselves far above sustainable prices and in short, absuse their near-monopoly status in a way that is not only immoral, it is in-efficient.

Gods in the setting are very limited in their intelligence. They have inhuman, near omniscient knowledge of their relevant portfolios, but they are curiously blind when it comes to the portfolios of other gods. While a human may be able to see things from multiple perspectives and realise that his interests are actually intertwined with others whose interests appear at first glance to be entirely unconnected, it is by no means certain that a divine being is capable of look outside his area of focus (the realm of invention and ideas) to understand the commercial application of those inventions.

This is why the church of Gond retards progress as much as it advances it. They create marvellous works, but they are rather helpless when it comes to marketing them and, indeed, somewhat hostile to the idea that something should be manufactured using economies of scale, as that dilutes the special relationship between the inventor and his invention. In their ideal world, only prototypes are built, to prove the concept.

Church are not monolithic entities, though, and at least one arm of the Gondite church, the Lantanese, shows some willingness to change. The priests, though, are mostly the same people that were in power before the ToT and it is very hard to change institutional culture.

It is entirely possible that some of the independent gnomish alchemists selling smokepowder are serving the will of Gond, though the established church does not realise it.

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Originally Posted by martinl View Post
If the current version didn't have the Gondites spreading the powder around, who is doing it?
Good question.

There are refugees and travellers from Kara-Tur in the Theskan region. Since smokepowder has been fairly well known, if no less expensive, in that country for hundreds of years, there have already been all kinds of experiments with its military use. So that's one source of it.

Then there are those alchemists who have managed to learn the formula without belonging to the temples of Gond or who belonged to it in the past but no longer do. Those are not all that few, since new lay worshippers join all the time and there will always be those who are dissatisfied with a faith after trying it out and in addition, if a substance can be sold for three times the materials cost, there will be those who want to go into business for themselves.

Third, the church is spreading knowledge of it, even if they are demanding ridiculous prices. A learned alchemist could hear of it, buy a small sample and with research, manage to extract the formula.

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Mooks get in one to three (if lucky) attacks before getting mowed down in any case. Reload time is not as big a deal in that scenario.
In a formation of pikes or polearms, that isn't a given. It's hard to kill people with Reach 2 and 3 when you've got Reach 1 like most adventurers with their fancy one-handed weapons.

If the adventurers can truly shatter the formation with ease and slaughter anyone within their reach instantly, the people need an escape plan, not a battle plan.

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If your crossbows do damage comparable to your muskets however, and are significantly cheaper and already accepted, the muskets are not likely to be adopted at all.
Agreed.

Though crossbows which can almost equal muskets for penetration power do significantly worse against soft targets, so the damage is not equivalent, but it is not far away. And such siege crossbows, while cheaper to operate than muskets, are actually more expensive and equally heavy (heavier, counting the rack).

Comparing a standard battlefield crossbow with a standard musketoon/caliver gives a damage of 1d(2) imp vs. 4d pi++ or penetration of DR 6 vs. penetration of DR 13. The crossbow can shoot three or four times faster, though.

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Originally Posted by martinl View Post
These are not simple spells, and damage from attack spells is limited. A ribcage full of REF 0.8 powder and a suit of heavy mail over top would be nasty.
There might be a narrow window of capability in which the powder is more powerful than the spells of the wizard, but he can still command some minor undead or such, but anyone capable of summoning air elementals will probably also have easy access to Firetrap spells which do the same thing for much less hard cash.

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Originally Posted by martinl View Post
Not sure of the relative costs of magic vs. powder in your game though, or the limits on and availability of boom spells. (Relatively cheap and available boom spells are effectively military artillery in most cases, and lead to more modern looking armies than the shield walls I've seen you discuss here in the past.)
At a guess, wizards can usually make a bigger boom for less money, provided you have wizards. They are, however, never as many as you'd wish.

The shield walls I've discussed in the past are explicitly lower TL than much of the setting, being a feature of orcish warfare in the Vastar. These orcs are not used to facing wizards that rank as much more than the equivalent to low-levels in D&D and their tactics have evolved in that environment. Most of their battles are against each other. Against humans with greater levels of magic, they consistently find themselves at a disadvantage.
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Old 10-31-2009, 12:22 PM   #48
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Default Re: Emerging smokepowder weapons in my fantasy

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I think that a huge disadvantage is that it is dishonorable. It doesn't require bravery, like lances and swords, because you are at a safe distance. It doesn't require training, like archery or magic. It is a weapon for peasants, and we don't want them[ to be too well armed.

Historically, this was a major stumbling block. It was not unknown for nobles to kill anyone found carrying a crossbow or a firearm.
Well, in the Forgotten Realms, there are nobles, but they wield nowhere near the amount of power they did in historical medieval period.

The people to whom the PCs are demonstrating the weapons are mostly common-born and have their power by virtue of the support of the merchant class and/or demonstrated military competence. At least one of them has displayed willingness to use magical means to flood goblin warrens with poison gas, which is considerably less honorable than firearms, so I guess he'd get behind anything that killed enemies efficiently.

And there's no risk that peasants will ever use smokepowder weapons, mostly because what makes them peasants is that they don't have any money. This isn't a weapon for peasants, it's a weapon for merchants and their well-funded military forces dedicated to keeping the tradeways open.

That is, if it is practical as a weapon system at all. With the cost of the smokepowder, I'm not at all convinced of that.

For the cost of keeping a regiment of musketeers in the field for a month, you could equip one-third of a regiment of crossbowmen or a whole regiment of light spearmen. That's a pretty hefty operational cost.
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Old 10-31-2009, 05:22 PM   #49
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Naval use.

You might have ships mounting only a few guns, if broadsides were prohibitively expensive. But nothing rivals artillery at sea.
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Old 10-31-2009, 05:44 PM   #50
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Default Re: Emerging smokepowder weapons in my fantasy

Those weapons seem broadly reasonable. I think most rich armies would play around with smokepowder, and it might have a use against plate armour and large monsters, but because of the price I doubt it will be a serious competition for bows and crossbows. That seems to be the position you're leaning towards, Icelander.

For the armour piercing role, one historical approach was using cast-iron shot for smallarms. In the Realms this ammunition might be cheaper and more spherical than historical iron shot. Steel shot from smoothbores seems to have about a (1.25) to (1.5) armour divisor according to the best test I know of.
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Naval use.

You might have ships mounting only a few guns, if broadsides were prohibitively expensive. But nothing rivals artillery at sea.
But can you cram more firepower onto a ship by hiring archers or wizards or gunners? Given the cost of powder, I'd expect most naval guns to be light things, with possibly a few heavy guns which are expected to fire once or twice in a given fight.

I doubt that smokepowder is hydroscopic, which is an advantage over early gunpowder at sea.
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