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Old 10-31-2009, 07:49 PM   #51
Joseph Paul
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Default Re: Emerging smokepowder weapons in my fantasy

Caveat - don't know a thing about the FR setting. That said is there not the same economic problem with archers/wizards vs gunners? That is that as long as there is a ready supply of bodies that can be trained for the years necessary to master those arts (yes, yes not so much with the crossbow) you are OK. What happens in a long war when casualties start eating up that supply? Particularly with wizards that have often been portrayed as being a tiny minority of most fantasy populations? The high cost of the smokepowder may be offset by a situation wherein archers and wizards have become scarce. Gunners require little training making replacing them relatively easy.
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Old 10-31-2009, 09:16 PM   #52
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Tangent Question Ice:

Did WotC put out a very good 4e FR supplement (I heard it was Meh) or are you elaborating a lot of plausibility onto the canon?
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Old 11-02-2009, 03:11 AM   #53
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Default Re: Emerging smokepowder weapons in my fantasy

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Tangent Question Ice:

Did WotC put out a very good 4e FR supplement (I heard it was Meh) or are you elaborating a lot of plausibility onto the canon?
For 4e, WotC decided to stop supporting the FR setting and instead publish a completely different setting under the same name.

It's set more than a century later than the previous setting sourcebooks, in order to prevent one from getting any use from their prior material, and it looks and sounds like WoW on acid.

No, I don't like it much. ;)
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Old 11-02-2009, 03:13 AM   #54
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Default Re: Emerging smokepowder weapons in my fantasy

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Caveat - don't know a thing about the FR setting. That said is there not the same economic problem with archers/wizards vs gunners? That is that as long as there is a ready supply of bodies that can be trained for the years necessary to master those arts (yes, yes not so much with the crossbow) you are OK. What happens in a long war when casualties start eating up that supply? Particularly with wizards that have often been portrayed as being a tiny minority of most fantasy populations? The high cost of the smokepowder may be offset by a situation wherein archers and wizards have become scarce. Gunners require little training making replacing them relatively easy.
Hmmmm.... well, yes.

But in a prolonged conflict, one would assume that capital tends to be scarce as well, so being dependant on a fantastically expensive alchemical substance would not seem all that favourable. Especially since few nations could produce great supplies of it locally (alchemists have to have a 'spark' just like wizards and also require years of training), so much of it would have to be imported.
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Old 11-02-2009, 03:14 AM   #55
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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.
Very true.

Particularly relevant since the group of PCs own seven ships that carry letters of marquee and reprisal and mean to add four more privateer ships to their fleet.
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Old 11-02-2009, 03:20 AM   #56
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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.
Agreed. Even though I use slightly less optimistic stats for bows and crossbows than GURPS RAW, those weapons still outcompete early firearms by a considerable margin if considered from a cost-effectiveness point of view.

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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.
The lighter steel shot will do less damage than lead shot, though. I expect that armour penetration is still better with steel than lead, but do you know how to compute the damage difference?

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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.
Certainly, wizards are a naval necessity. But even very rich privateering firms, such as the PCs' company, have trouble finding enough for their purposes. Minor mages abound, but the truly powerful ones that can sink a ship with their spells are not very common.
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Old 11-02-2009, 04:54 AM   #57
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The lighter steel shot will do less damage than lead shot, though. I expect that armour penetration is still better with steel than lead, but do you know how to compute the damage difference?
Sounds to me like making it AP would work. I think that drops the damage category down a notch (so from pi++ to pi+) and multiplies damage by 0.7 or so. If that drops damage too much, you could consider it as effectively being APHC, which suffers the damage category drop but doesn't suffer any penalty to basic damage. No idea how realistic all that would be (I suspect TL 3/4 APHC is a bit much), but those options aren't terrible.
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Old 11-02-2009, 05:40 AM   #58
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Hmmmm.... well, yes.

But in a prolonged conflict, one would assume that capital tends to be scarce as well, so being dependant on a fantastically expensive alchemical substance would not seem all that favourable. Especially since few nations could produce great supplies of it locally (alchemists have to have a 'spark' just like wizards and also require years of training), so much of it would have to be imported.

Hmm If your capital can't buy an asset that has gone off the market, such as trained archers and wizards, cornering an emerging technology might make sense. Alchemists aren't normally on the front lines and don't normally suffer the same attrition as battle wizards and archers so if their product did start becoming more mainstream they suddenly become an essential asset that needs to be collected and guarded against assasination. Hmm an alchemical V2 campaign? Collect the brains, guard the brains, get as much out as you can. Of course this may not be applicable to the situation in your campaign right now.

Capital in medieval conflicts was often scarce. Plunder and grants of newly conquered lands and titles to go with them were often used as the stop gap. Literally working with 'other people's money'!
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Old 11-02-2009, 09:06 PM   #59
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Hmm If your capital can't buy an asset that has gone off the market, such as trained archers and wizards, cornering an emerging technology might make sense. Alchemists aren't normally on the front lines and don't normally suffer the same attrition as battle wizards and archers so if their product did start becoming more mainstream they suddenly become an essential asset that needs to be collected and guarded against assasination. Hmm an alchemical V2 campaign? Collect the brains, guard the brains, get as much out as you can. Of course this may not be applicable to the situation in your campaign right now.
The alchemists aren't the only limit on the supply of smokepowder. It also requires exotic and rare reagents, the cost of which is around $350/lbs.

This essentially means that even with all the alchemists in the world and the most efficient mass production system, smokepowder would still cost twenty times what black powder did.

And while alchemists might not suffer from attrition (except for the occasional explosion... which might not be all that rare), their agents which are dispatched into monsters' lairs and similar places to gather materials will tend to die pretty often.

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Capital in medieval conflicts was often scarce. Plunder and grants of newly conquered lands and titles to go with them were often used as the stop gap. Literally working with 'other people's money'!
Indeed.

But imagine that operational costs of armies were two times what they were in our history. Now you need to conquer two times as much land to make going to war worthwhile. Or if the costs were five times what they were in our history.

At what point does warfare, at least with such an expensive substance, stop being a cost-effective revenue stream?

I know that if any power in Faerun expended smokepowder at the rate Napoleonic warfare expended black powder, all the conquest in the world would not suffice to pay the bills.
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Old 11-02-2009, 09:26 PM   #60
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Default Re: Emerging smokepowder weapons in my fantasy

Re: Needing adventurers for scrounging ingredients. Sounds like a much more logical reason for delving!

Re: Economics of warfare - Given what you have laid out I see a plot with a sneaky peace faction working hard to check the wizards and dismantle the archer corps so that smokepowder comes to the fore. Very shortly all parties realize they can have enough to defend with but not enough to mount an offensive. War becomes limited, perhaps Peace gets a chance? Or there is a huge moral dillema in it for the PCs at the critical junction? Aww now I am drifting.

Have you got enough divergent opinions to deal with your player's conundrum?
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