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Old 09-16-2016, 03:20 PM   #191
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Default Re: Emerging smokepowder weapons in my fantasy

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Originally Posted by Gedrin View Post
Is there anything that prevents you from using a simple clay vessel, filling it with shrapnel, and then pouring in the powder?

This is how smaller air bursting firework shells are made (not with clay...but you get the idea).
There is not, no, but given the astronomical expense of smokepowder, it's generally worthwhile to have the artisan spend some extra time making sure that the explosion maximise the effect of the smokepowder and shrapnel.

Clay pots filled with shrapnel and smokepowder are in use, but the pot and fragmenting material generally cost $10+ (rather than the $1 or so of a simple clay vessel and scrap), given that the smokepowder cost is usually $350+.

Pretty much the same reason you don't generally serve sixty-year-old Armagnac in plastic glasses, even if that is much cheaper than crystalware.
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Old 09-16-2016, 06:38 PM   #192
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Default Re: Emerging smokepowder weapons in my fantasy

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Small arms are also useful for siege work and naval warfare. As most sieges were resolved by means of treachery, it is by no means to be despised to have a few blunderbusses and pistols ready for the scuffle for the gate once your pet traitor opens it for your men. And Nelson was shot from the rigging.

The expense of smokepowder strongly supports using it only in quality weapons, with more accuracy than at low TLs and skilled users. And to never use more powder than is needed. There are roles for cannon, but battering wooden ships with poor accuracy is probably not one of them.

Note also that the wasteful Giff weapons above were developed on another world, where normal black powder works, but have been brought to the campaign world and there loaded with the cheap kind of smokepowder (equivalent to good TL5 black powder, if much more expensive).
No more useful then crossbows. Marginal gains from one situation are made up for by superiority of archery in another. However the ability to knock a breech in a wall in a few hours more then makes up for any powder expended, while the casualties inflicted by musketry are not thereby increased. Musketry is only useful if you can be profligate with powder and shot; it's purpose is to allow peasants to stand up to only requiring the hiring of enough peasants. Archery is still more effective on a man to man basis. The main problem is that archers take fifteen years to train and musketeers only six months. If powder is to rare to use that advantage then musketry is in fact not an option(sharpshooting is, which requires you to discover the rifle, which requires a motive to make small arms).

Cannon already have a motive. A few cannon, or indeed a few petards and some stout lads to plant them, can keep unruly robber barons from making trouble at sufficient economic cost. One or two breeches in a castle will end the siege quickly and that is more then enough reason for expending hundreds of pounds of firepowder. Musketry also expends hundreds of pounds with less increased effect per pound.
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Old 09-17-2016, 06:38 AM   #193
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Default Re: Emerging smokepowder weapons in my fantasy

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No more useful then crossbows. Marginal gains from one situation are made up for by superiority of archery in another. However the ability to knock a breech in a wall in a few hours more then makes up for any powder expended, while the casualties inflicted by musketry are not thereby increased. Musketry is only useful if you can be profligate with powder and shot; it's purpose is to allow peasants to stand up to only requiring the hiring of enough peasants.
Muskets are not automatically inaccurate. I've seen videos of modern reenactors shooting Brown Bess muskets at 100 yards and hitting a man-sized target in the chest area every time. Some of it was that the prevailing doctrine was to avoid spending anything on the peasant armies, beyond teaching them to march and handing them a musket. Teaching them to shoot was rarely done. It wasn't worth it, given the prevailing tactics.

The advantage that muskets have over archery is that muskets threathen true heavy infantry in a way that bows or crossbows do not really do. Certainly, archers are accurate at longer ranges, but within point blank range, only a superheroic archer with a magical bow and arrow can hope to discourage ultra-heavy infantry with 9+ DR over the important areas.

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Archery is still more effective on a man to man basis. The main problem is that archers take fifteen years to train and musketeers only six months. If powder is to rare to use that advantage then musketry is in fact not an option(sharpshooting is, which requires you to discover the rifle, which requires a motive to make small arms).
Rifled barrels are known, but are hand-crafted by master smiths. There is a new fad of nobles buying them for sporting guns, because nobles are just the sort of people who use a $100 to $350 charge of powder to shoot a buck rather than a reusable $1-2 arrow or bolt.

As for the relative value of musketry and archery, if the PCs could hire 3,000-5,000 archers who could shoot a 100-lb warbow with proficiency, they wouldn't need nearly as many musketeers. But no amount of money can buy them that many who have been bowmen from youth. They cannot even get a thousand, though they are working hard to recruit more than the 250 or so they have now.

They can hire the sons and younger brothers of mercenary crossbowmen, pikemen and sword-and-buckler men, though, in large numbers. They have access to some six cities and the surrounding countrysides, that have a mercenary tradition of many generations.

And teaching a man who can already use a crossbow to shoot a musket accurately is a fairly easy task. Even men who have never used crossbows, but are enterprising, fit and familiar enough with shipboard life to be recruited into their Marines quickly learn to use their firearms.*

*Their recruits almost always already have skill with sword, buckler, pike and half-pike and the kind of military skills that a father and uncles impart to a kid who is expected to join a professional military force at sixteen.

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Cannon already have a motive. A few cannon, or indeed a few petards and some stout lads to plant them, can keep unruly robber barons from making trouble at sufficient economic cost. One or two breeches in a castle will end the siege quickly and that is more then enough reason for expending hundreds of pounds of firepowder. Musketry also expends hundreds of pounds with less increased effect per pound.
200 lbs. at $7,000 per pound is 1.4 million. For that money, you could get a wizard to make temporary doors in the castle wall of some ten castles. Granted, there is risk to the wizard and you'd need some powerful adventurers to defend him (and make sure that no hostile wizard dispells the temporary pathway until all the army is inside), but even so, the cost would be much less than a third of that of 200 lbs. of smokepowder.

There are some sources where smokepowder is less expensive than this. Those with good connections to those manufacturing it more cheaply might indeed very well explore the use of smokepowder mines in siege warfare. Certainly the PCs might and a faction or two of their enemies.
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Old 09-17-2016, 05:29 PM   #194
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Default Re: Emerging smokepowder weapons in my fantasy

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Muskets are not automatically inaccurate. I've seen videos of modern reenactors shooting Brown Bess muskets at 100 yards and hitting a man-sized target in the chest area every time. Some of it was that the prevailing doctrine was to avoid spending anything on the peasant armies, beyond teaching them to march and handing them a musket. Teaching them to shoot was rarely done. It wasn't worth it, given the prevailing tactics.

The advantage that muskets have over archery is that muskets threathen true heavy infantry in a way that bows or crossbows do not really do. Certainly, archers are accurate at longer ranges, but within point blank range, only a superheroic archer with a magical bow and arrow can hope to discourage ultra-heavy infantry with 9+ DR over the important areas.


Rifled barrels are known, but are hand-crafted by master smiths. There is a new fad of nobles buying them for sporting guns, because nobles are just the sort of people who use a $100 to $350 charge of powder to shoot a buck rather than a reusable $1-2 arrow or bolt.

As for the relative value of musketry and archery, if the PCs could hire 3,000-5,000 archers who could shoot a 100-lb warbow with proficiency, they wouldn't need nearly as many musketeers. But no amount of money can buy them that many who have been bowmen from youth. They cannot even get a thousand, though they are working hard to recruit more than the 250 or so they have now.

They can hire the sons and younger brothers of mercenary crossbowmen, pikemen and sword-and-buckler men, though, in large numbers. They have access to some six cities and the surrounding countrysides, that have a mercenary tradition of many generations.

And teaching a man who can already use a crossbow to shoot a musket accurately is a fairly easy task. Even men who have never used crossbows, but are enterprising, fit and familiar enough with shipboard life to be recruited into their Marines quickly learn to use their firearms.*

*Their recruits almost always already have skill with sword, buckler, pike and half-pike and the kind of military skills that a father and uncles impart to a kid who is expected to join a professional military force at sixteen.


200 lbs. at $7,000 per pound is 1.4 million. For that money, you could get a wizard to make temporary doors in the castle wall of some ten castles. Granted, there is risk to the wizard and you'd need some powerful adventurers to defend him (and make sure that no hostile wizard dispells the temporary pathway until all the army is inside), but even so, the cost would be much less than a third of that of 200 lbs. of smokepowder.

There are some sources where smokepowder is less expensive than this. Those with good connections to those manufacturing it more cheaply might indeed very well explore the use of smokepowder mines in siege warfare. Certainly the PCs might and a faction or two of their enemies.
When they had enough explosive to expend on small arms sure. You are postulating that they don't.

And rifles while they were thought of fairly early(and relegated to a marginal role), are a further refinement of a technology already in existence, a refinement that could only come from the experience given by firing large amounts of powder from small arms.

Muskets like the Brown Bess would not be available in the 1400's. They could only come, again from experience firing small arms. By making powder unusually expensive you have set yourself a technology barrier. Even positing that inaccuracy is exaggerated their superior effectiveness over bows is not so great as to use them for that. You might as well be shooting silver bullets. The only thing where their advantage is unquestionably greater is in penetration which will be useful in selected areas like naval war(preventing using bulwarks as cover).

In siegework by contrast, any breech made in a fortress is a sharp point. The powder expended to created it is worth far more then the waste caused by dissipating it all along the line. The same would apply by the way if field artillery is massed in a critical position on an open battlefield.
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Old 09-17-2016, 05:55 PM   #195
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Default Re: Emerging smokepowder weapons in my fantasy

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When they had enough explosive to expend on small arms sure. You are postulating that they don't.

And rifles while they were thought of fairly early(and relegated to a marginal role), are a further refinement of a technology already in existence, a refinement that could only come from the experience given by firing large amounts of powder from small arms.

Muskets like the Brown Bess would not be available in the 1400's. They could only come, again from experience firing small arms. By making powder unusually expensive you have set yourself a technology barrier.
The world isn't at anything like the 1400s of Earth. It's a world where many civilizations have risen and fallen, with magic-assisted technology having reached something like TL2+7 and TL2+8 in the distant past, but with those civilizations having fallen in magical catastrophes.

International trade is at an 18th-19th century level. Sailing technology is at a 17th century level, mostly, but with some advanced shipwrights experimenting with 19th century vessels like clippers. And so on.

What the world doesn't have is industrialisation. Incredibly advanced hand-crafted prototypes in many fields of technology, but no reliable means of mass producing these.

With planar travel and spelljamming ships, people from the world have visited worlds where normal black powder works and Age of Sail firearms are common. While rare, rifles, wheellock pistols and muskets have been brought back to the campaign setting world before.

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Even positing that inaccuracy is exaggerated their superior effectiveness over bows is not so great as to use them for that. You might as well be shooting silver bullets.
One PC actually uses magical gold bullets, with the molten gold mixed with dragon blood to imbue the bullets with properties of the dragon's breath weapon. The cost of the gold is trivial compared to the smokepowder (and the magic).

The point is, in this fantasy setting, champions with supernatural powers wearing magical panoplies are powerful enough so that non-magical arrows just bounce off them. But any army that can't counter enemy champions has a huge morale problem, as supernatural heroes hack their way through defenseless normal soldiers.

War isn't just a matter of normal humans vs. normal humans. There are superheroes on both sides and the normal humans have to find some way to deal with those superheroes.

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The only thing where their advantage is unquestionably greater is in penetration which will be useful in selected areas like naval war(preventing using bulwarks as cover).
Penetration is necessary in other situations, too. Even non-magically, an armoured champion might have DR 6-9 and a shield with DR 8-10 cover DR. Magically, that could become DR 8-25, with shields providing another DR 8-25. Even wizards not wearing armour can have Bracers of Defence for DR 2 to 10 and Amulets of Natural Armor for DR 1 to 5.

Non-magical arrows aren't going to penetrate the DR of any champions. Powerful guns might, at a cost similar to magical arrows. And you can enchant bullets for an even further boost in performance.

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In siegework by contrast, any breech made in a fortress is a sharp point. The powder expended to created it is worth far more then the waste caused by dissipating it all along the line. The same would apply by the way if field artillery is massed in a critical position on an open battlefield.
Mass musketry is wasteful, yes, but sharpshooting enemy champions is not.
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Old 09-19-2016, 06:30 AM   #196
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Default Pistols

The existing Low-Tech and High-Tech pistols at TL4-5 are mostly very low powered.

Does anyone know of a technological reason why black powder pistols with 12" and shorter barrels were limited to 1d+ to 2d-1 Dmg?

Is this a function of the barrels being too short for a powder charge with any power to burn in them?*

Or is it just a matter of must of these pistols being meant for use against unarmoured foes at short range, making it unpopular to load them with heavy powder charges, which would increase MinSt and Rcl in game terms and make them painful and terrifying to shoot, in real-world terms?

Could you load a typical real-world boarding pistol to get more than 1d+1 or 1d+2 Dmg without risking a burst barrel, if you were prepared to face a stupendous recoil and muzzle blast?

Would carbine or fusil charges burst a real-world boarding pistol or simply not add any meaningful Dmg, as the barrel would be too short for the extra powder to burn?

*Which means that high-quality REF 0.8 smokepowder weapons could surpass this damage, but the lower quality REF 0.5 smokepowder might not, unless it exists in faster burning varieties than typical black powder pistol chamberings.
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Old 09-19-2016, 09:16 AM   #197
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Default Re: Pistols

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The existing Low-Tech and High-Tech pistols at TL4-5 are mostly very low powered.

Does anyone know of a technological reason why black powder pistols with 12" and shorter barrels were limited to 1d+ to 2d-1 Dmg?

Is this a function of the barrels being too short for a powder charge with any power to burn in them?*

Or is it just a matter of must of these pistols being meant for use against unarmoured foes at short range, making it unpopular to load them with heavy powder charges, which would increase MinSt and Rcl in game terms and make them painful and terrifying to shoot, in real-world terms?

Could you load a typical real-world boarding pistol to get more than 1d+1 or 1d+2 Dmg without risking a burst barrel, if you were prepared to face a stupendous recoil and muzzle blast?

Would carbine or fusil charges burst a real-world boarding pistol or simply not add any meaningful Dmg, as the barrel would be too short for the extra powder to burn?[/SIZE]
Combination of not being meant for any sort of long range or armor, and being made cheap and somewhat disposable. If you made the barrel out of higher quality metals, I don't see any reason why you couldn't use more/better powder.
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Old 09-19-2016, 10:25 AM   #198
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Combination of not being meant for any sort of long range or armor, and being made cheap and somewhat disposable. If you made the barrel out of higher quality metals, I don't see any reason why you couldn't use more/better powder.
Fair enough.

What about British and French 19th century naval pistols from High-Tech? They are very robust and can be used as maces without harming them much. Could they withstand a higher power round as is, maybe x1.2 or even x1.3 to Dmg, Range and MinST (with possibly higher Rcl as well)?
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Old 09-19-2016, 10:37 AM   #199
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Fair enough.

What about British and French 19th century naval pistols from High-Tech? They are very robust and can be used as maces without harming them much. Could they withstand a higher power round as is, maybe x1.2 or even x1.3 to Dmg, Range and MinST (with possibly higher Rcl as well)?
Sure, with maybe just slight modifications. From what you've described of your setting, I don't see why somebody wouldn't be able to pack magnum rounds into a sturdy enough pistol.
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Old 09-19-2016, 01:22 PM   #200
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Default Re: Emerging smokepowder weapons in my fantasy

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There is not, no, but given the astronomical expense of smokepowder, it's generally worthwhile to have the artisan spend some extra time making sure that the explosion maximise the effect of the smokepowder and shrapnel.

Clay pots filled with shrapnel and smokepowder are in use, but the pot and fragmenting material generally cost $10+ (rather than the $1 or so of a simple clay vessel and scrap), given that the smokepowder cost is usually $350+.

Pretty much the same reason you don't generally serve sixty-year-old Armagnac in plastic glasses, even if that is much cheaper than crystalware.
So, it's not a "firepower" question. What you really want is something that maximizes your powder to casualty rate.
IRL, the big advantage of gunpowder was "cheap way to deliver potentially lethal wounds" and "makes walls go away". Those are fairly cost prohibitive. So we're left with the other advantages it can offer. Lethality at range without respect to ST. Explosion and dispersal of damage. The ability to crack just about any nut with enough expense (aka Plan B).

Lethality at Range Without Respect to ST:
People not strong enough to use a bow in combat can use the musket. Is that better than the crossbow? Probably depends on your people and your enemy. However, giving your high value people a first shot or last shot via a pistol is a decent idea.

Explosion and Dispersal:
Mines/grenades. A few small cans rolled into enemy formations (assuming close formations) loaded with shot can cripple enemies. Buried mines are probably cost prohibitive, but could be effective in set ambushes. The can devices could also be air dropped. This is a disruption and casualty weapon. Could be very effective in healer power attrition.
Explosives are useful in creating ambushes. Bringing down the right building or wall can cut off escape, or provide one. Traps were noted above, but think about the ability to change the terrain. Demo is...well, no one in the campaign has a lot of training in it...so no guts no glory. I think your battlefield is urban, and suspect this is where the best use of the powder in terms of battlefield surprise and shaping can be.

Plan B:
Low level ranger Sandy and the family's dolphin companion could limpet quite a few ships. An underwater limpet is an expensive smokepowder weapon, but quite reasonable if you have a proper delivery mechanism.
Ulgor the Unstoppable, Giant Tyrant and Champion of the Bloody Fist Vanguard of the...BOOOOOM!!!! Sometimes you just don't have the time to deal with someone in a civilized manner. It's the sort of thing that can make a GM smile and cry at the same time, but anyone who's location you know with enough time, can be blown completely to smithereens.

A note on snipers:
Snipers would be great...if you have accurate smokepowder weapons. Given the cost of the powder, use the AP adamant bullets. If you don't, it's a bit of a toss up. There are amazing counter sniper abilities in FRish settings. Of course, there's also a bizarre tech scale. Rifling may well be in use for another technology already, just waiting as an obvious adaptation.
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