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MoonHunter Sayeth 20171217


Game Guru-Thread Shepherd
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Two Great Tastes that Should Go Great Together
or "Get your Firearms out of my Fantasy"

The Winds have been upon us since Friday. Since Friday, there has been no internet. Since Saturday until Sunday noon, there was no power (probably had great internet since nobody was on). So this has been delayed for a while. Sorry. Still Post 101, only 99 to go.

Some people are of the opinion that firearms destroy fantasy. Some say, "It destroys their vision of things". "Guns are too modern or too realistic!". Some say, "Firearms were not in Tolkein, thus are not in our "fantasy"". Lastly, Some people think it is all about game balance and that guns would destroy it.

"Can you picture the film version of the Battle of Helms Deep if the Rohirrim had put all their hopes on musket and cannon? (though, that said, the orc's bomb worked pretty well)

I was always confused about this. However, I did not come into Fantasy Gaming as other gamers did. I read a steady diet of science fiction and science fantasy and pulp stories before they tried to drag me into fantasy role playing. I do mean dragged. oD&D did not grok for me because I did not follow Tolkien, T H White, Leiber, Howard, or similar works. Eventually, I was playing Empire of the Petal Throne and slipped into more conventional fantasy because nobody wanted to play anything remotely science fiction (Traveller, Space Opera, and others). Eventually, I was co-opted to read The Lord of the Rings (Read this and come to the movie with us (Hobbit 1977), or stop playing.) Before that, the closest thing I came to reading fantasy was The Barsoom series by Edgar Rice Burroughs.

See, to me, Barsoom proved to me that Fantasy and Tech worked together. More accurately Radium Pistols and Swords. Radium made for a great gun powder substitute. In a magical fantasy, alchemy could easily make Hard Light.

So when I brought the subject up: "NO GUNS!", with the exclamation point was the only response I got. Even though Eyes, Wands, and Power Tubes did the same thing (or worse).

When most gamers think of "Guns in Fantasy", I get the feeling that most of them imagine 19th century cartridge rifles and not the imprecise, smooth-bore handguns of the early centuries. Those weapons were not über kill-sticks that could pierce plate armor like a hot knife through butter. In fact Guns are the reason why armor has proof marks and had a brief resurgence. Gunpowder of various sorts existed right along side castles and knights in armour for a very long time. It's not like people went right from slings and bows to M16s and rocket launchers. There were centuries of development. It was a slow progression of improved chemistry, improved metallurgy, and engineering improved firearms, taking steps to different phases of different firing mechanisms, different barrel designs, etc.

An example how the two live on the same battlefield for a while is when muskets were introduced to Japan during the Sengoku period. They didn't change warfare much at first. That was because they were treat as elite weapons, the upper echelons of warriors. Thing change only when Nobunaga decided use them on massive scale to take on the fairly unstoppable Takeda cavalry.

So am I fine with firearms in my fantasy? Sure. Just as long as people don't expect to drop 19th or 20th century guns into a setting modeled after the 13th or 15th century technological octave. Let us review.

Very early (1300s): No tangible advantages, other than perhaps the frightening noise. Inaccurate, expensive and fiendishly difficult to use. However, they're newfangled and expensive. They are prestigious, which can count as a sort of intangible advantage.

At this stage, cannons as siege weapons are the gunpowder weapons that make the difference. (In China, this period started in 1200s).

Early (1400s): Still inaccurate, still expensive and still difficult to use, but not so much that they're without merit. Very powerful and fairly useful in sieges when there's plenty of time for aiming and reloading.

Middle (1500s-1700s): Not terribly accurate and still very slow to reload, but powerful and easy to fire (reloading is still a bit fiddly).

Late (Rifling): Accurate, quick to reload (for many models), easy to use.
To sum up: Early guns were rather ineffective as personal weapons compared to existing weapons, such as crossbows or bows. Early guns were slow to reload. The powder had to be kept dry and a batch could go bad without warning. Especially in the rain. Powder is dangerous and can go off in your face. With various lighting mechanisms you had to keep matches burning or worry about flashes in the pan. They were not game ending death machines, they were just weapons that were very effective in certain situations.

The reason guns became ubiquitous had less to do with their technical superiority than their usefulness as battlefield weapons. There is a simpler training curve for training to lethality than with bows. (You could train a bunch of conscripts faster to use firearms to effect than bows). Fire into formation and concentrated fire are useful battlefield tools. During a siege, the slower reload rates were not much of an issue.

Most rpg chronicles/ settings are not set in wars with large formations and strategy. RPG characters are effectively skirmishers or duelists. It's would be all fine and dandy to have musketeers running around, but why would a group of adventurers have guns in lieu of arbalests and composite bows? They have a slower rate of fire than bows, but deal more damage than them. Their range is also bad compared to a bow (until the later 1500s if memory serves). In many cases, the typical stealth missions that PCs engage in outright forbids the use of noisy guns, anyway.

While some people say, "Oh Gunpowder doesn't work because of some kind of ancient enchantment or divine intervention", I say add them to equipment lists on worlds with the right level of technology/ social development. Keep them with realistic, rather than punishing, limitations. Then remember you will need to blend them into the setting.

You can not just plop them into the setting. Things need to make sense. Have you not read about the 7Cs? The technology of cannons and firearms will have an impact on things.

Metal working for armor and blades will be improved as the blends are improved by firearms. Geometry, surveying, and mechanical design were all driven by the study of Ballistics and Cannon making, lead to improved math and understanding of physics... which led to better buildings, roads, navigation, and other things. Those are some things to address. However, the elephant in the room for most games is the existence of magic.

Now you could have a Guilds of Alchemists/ Chemist hold the secret of Gunpowder and Greek Fire, hoarding the power of that knowledge - hiding it or using it for special explosions and rockets. This is more plausible than many options, but if they wanted to gain power and wealth, they would make big weapons. You could have accidental discovery outside the guild, theft of guild knowledge, or just a rogue ex-member, and the secret could get out. So this can slow it down or change things up, but they will still be there.

I must address the old chestnut of magic retards technology. That would be true, if more people could cast spells. (Most games limit the number of spell casters that could exist. Most spell systems do not have spells that are useful in everyday life.) Some say, much of what can be done with guns and cannons, magic can do. Some people say, why would people waste time with developing those?

Well, let’s see. I can arm dozens if not hundreds of peasants with bombs, grenades, and gonnes, all that takes is wealth and time. As a noble lord, I can control the peasants by withholding powder. As a noble lord, that is not the case with a wizard. How many years does it take to train up a wizards anyways? To top that off, there are only a handful of those with the gift around. And remember, one knife blade in the ribs does put a cramp in their style. One assassin (usually) can not take out a conscript army. Oh and Wizards are often “evil” so having a comparable force is something worth having. So, there are less excuses that it seems at first blush.

The existence of cannons and firearms don’t change the texture of warfare on a magical setting. At least not until the production of said weapons is “ramped up” to the point where masses of commoners are carrying them. If guns are relatively rare and expensive, it's not much different than having magic present. If they are limited to elite units because of production or enough gunpowder, then they will have less impact. The Japanese example stated above shows this. They had musketeers, but then after a few volleys, it was traditional melee combat after that. (Until Nobunaga change the game).

Think about the Musketeers (ala Dumas). They used guns and they were master swordsmen because swords still had a place in warfare until after their time.

Address the changes in the world, social, military, economic, and such, to fit firearms. Who now has the power? Is it a great power or just a change?

Remember, the game world should never be static. Even in our Middle Ages, there were constant changes in social structures and economics… despite the popular media opinion that nothing much happened during those times. Changes should be happening. Players can be in front of the wave of change, watching the wave, or swept up in it. (The March of Time)

One of my adaptions of magic to firearms
Magic does come into play with these firearms. Because the mixture is alchemical (magical and chemistry), firearms became more efficient quicker. Because they are so darn effective, they became "Weapons of Nobility" due to various royal decrees. Non-Royals, or non-nobles if you want more of them, are banned from using them on pain of death. So your upper level nobility wear these pistols on their belt, pulling them out to do system shock/death to people being shot. Nobody gave nobility grief when they could pull out six rounds in twelve seconds killing their targets dead.

Add to this a glove and handle enchantment. Thus you must be wearing your shooting glove and the pistol to work. This keeps the riffraff from just taking your gun. And if they do, off your dead/ dying/ unconscious body, they have to fit your glove perfectly. If they don't the gun does not fire. Magical guards would simply protect firearms from overbalancing things.

Thus you have magical adaptions to the technology and the political, economic, and military power still in the hands of the nobles… for now.

Another adaption point I want to make -
People do forget that magic is a technology as well. It will grow and change over time. People develop new spells as they need them or find uses for magical patterns that had previously existed, but nobody had found a use for. Adapting existing spells could make things more interesting.

The simple cantrip “spark” now becomes a game changer. It could make magic users the cannoneers or gun wielders, able to fire with more simplicity. Or they could be used against a loaded gun, a powder horn, or a powder depot. (Enchanting gun firing mechanisms with it, does make for a very effective flint, match, wheel lock) Will the benefits of gunpowder outweigh the risks? Will all gunpowder have to be carried in enchanted rune covered containers to prevent this tiny spell?

Now convert the spell to a full spell strength use… perhaps sparks will happen at a greater range or over an area. (Change the spell to Spark Powder and gun powder weapons become more problematic).

Note: I like spell casters becoming those in charge of the cannons and firearms, it utilizes their “wise one” status, shows off alchemical skills, and gives them something to do when they run out of magic for a day.)

As for other simple cantrips that will have new life:
Damp Powder: Another cantrip (damp) that come into its own. The powder is not ready to be used, so a spark spell will not take out a supply of gunpowder (it must be prepared to be used)

Dry Powder: Again, another cantrip that comes into its own. It would make powder ready to use and even use it in rainy/ damp situations.

Now into real spells that will be developed eventually… military secrets to eventual common use.
Reverse Missile is part of the common grimoire. Now it could effect rounds from a firearm. Or it could be refined into:

Reverse Bullet (Bolt/Slug/ what ever) is even easier still. In fact, it is a spell an apprentice can master. Once these "guns" become even spottingly common, this charm spreads like wildfire. (It will spread even faster if gunpowder is alchemical). Soon magic cloaks and charms are produced. So now you never know if an important person you want to shoot is going to reflect a bullet back at you.

Reverse Shell: Evolving up from a bullet, it will reverse grapeshot or an actual cannon shot. You cast it on an area or building, then watch shot come back at the gun which shot it.

Now, reverse may not be used, just block spells (block missile, block bullet, block shell). You could add armor spells against bullets.

Now enchanted items with these spells would eventually come into play. Of course, people would then use extensions of block missile to prevent the reflections from getting to them.

If you have more battle magics (or skill based magics that anyone could possibly learn), spells like quick shot, multi-missile and firebolt spells would be applied to firearms. This would create fast loading, multiple shot weapons that could shoot fire. Thus magic using gun users become much more effective than normal gun users. Or just adding enchantments to various guns. Or they could be a warrior with some learned magical knowledge: Hexslingers.

Counter Magic cantrips, spells, and enchantments, would also be a game changer. It would eliminate these. The common use of protective enchantments would make firearms “magic proof”. A setting with very few magic users of any consequence means most of these magical adaptions would be moot, as involvement of magic would be rare if not non-existent in most cases.

The addition of magic into the mix adds new levels of common strategy and adaption… based on how common magic is. Thus firearms would change magic and visa versa.

Firearms add many interesting wrinkles to a chronicle. It would be a shame that a reflex reaction and some historical misunderstandings keeps them out of your games.


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One of the most foolproof ways to keep gunpowder in the game, without resorting to changing the laws of physics, is a simple change to the magical field.

If you want to effectively stop gunpowder, burning/ combusting/ exploding Gunpowder/ fire-powder summons demons. There was always a burning component in a summoning. It was not until fire-powder was used that easy demonic summoning could be accidently performed. Most people attempting to make powder for various reasons would not survive the unbound demon they unleashed upon their work space.

Lets say you manage to make a gun or bomb, light the gunpowder (or fire-powder as it would be called), and get the explosion and an unbound demon. (Which may or may not be a good thing depending on who the demon starts killing or helping.) Thus using gunpowder/ fire-powder for anything other than summoning, is too dangerous with an unbound demon around.

Controlled summoning is almost too easy as fire-powder is set off in specific patterns. People who are against demons, would be against the knowledge of fire-powder and any of those summoning patterns. Also, they would be against the amount of magic items/ powers granted by powder summoned demons.

There are a couple other options (gunpowder is catnip to fire elementals who will be drawn to it from quite a radius for example), but they are less fool proof that this.


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104) The Manual of Powder Defense

Generally, widespread magic reduces the utility of firearms and slows their development and adoption. There are some places, however, where firearms have begun to develop, and in some of those places local mages have begun to bend their magic around the existence of firearms and other gunpowder weapons. While some attempt to work alongside gunslingers and gunsmiths to improve their art or even to synthesize magical fighting styles with gunplay, most wizards are suspicious of the relatively young technology, and there has been a wide-ranging (if not particularly coordinated) effort to develop magical countermeasures.

The Manual of Powder Defense is the definitive treaty on using magic to protect oneself from firearms. It takes a multi-layered approach, and includes spells that physically protect the mage from bullets, spells that damage or disable a firearm, and spells that confound or disorient a gunslinger. A mage might cast Bullet Ward, Jam Weapon, Inert Powder, and Cloud Vision all as part of a comprehensive plan to defeat a target armed with a firearm. Some of the spells in the Manual are specialized to a fault. Firearms are relatively rare weapons to begin with, and the Manual contains spells that only work on a specific type of gun.

It would be easy to dismiss the Manual, which contains an excessive number of spells for dealing with a narrow problem, as being more of a statement than a practical spellbook, but there's no denying the appeal it has for mages who feel threatened by the emergence of gunpowder weapons.
105) The Hexslinger Manual
By the 129th Spell Council, now on the 4th Printing.
It is pocket format (5x7), 164 pages with illustations.

The ancient laws (and practicalities of time in deep study vs exercise) prohibit a spell caster from carrying a weapon of any notable size... beyond a simple staff. Time change and new things develop. Nothing changed things more than The Plague and The Firearms.

The Cannon changed siege and battle warfare. Magickers quickly countered with flash powder, inert powder, deflect stone, and the cantrip "wet". Of course the mages on the other side countered with powder ward (protecting powder from spell work), strong iron (strengthening the cannon so it will not explode - a defense created before someone generated the offensive spell to brittle the cannon), and the use of "dry" cantrip. The start of Hexslinging was the fateful spell - True Stone. The adaption of the true arrow and true bolt spell to a cannon shot.

Handgons were not proscribed by Guild Laws. These were personal weapons of some potency. It made the simple use of a spark cantrip (or an actual match). Once a spell caster started using them, they began to create spells to make them more effective - True bullet (gon stones), multibullet (adapted from the multiarrow charm - shoot once, magically becomes three arrows), and the FireBullet (adapted from Firearrow to a bullet).

Handgons quickly became long muskets and short muskets (primative pistols). Short Muskets became multistones (adapting the quiver of holding enchantment) creating a six or twelve shot weapon.

Then the spell of transference occured, allowing a bullet or stone to be the carrier of a spell. Thus Hexslinging began.

While various firearms are used by the mercenary profession, spell casters (Hexslingers) and duelists (Gonslingers) have embraced the weapons and refined their use. Bullets have moved from ram and wad to cartridges because of them. The Alchemists and Firesmiths (those that make firearms and cannons of all sizes.)

The Hexslinger's manual includes all the expected spells, Recall (call the gon to your hand), spark, the powder sequnce of spells, the strong gon spell, the various enchantments for each gon (or gonne depends if you are in The East or not). The Bullet Sequence (much like the arrow and bolt spells adapted to bullets) is key. Form Bullet/ summon bullet are added to that. The manual also includes tips on rigs (holding the gon and bullets), quick drawing, aiming, shooting, and "The Tactics of the Gon".
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