Thursday, January 12, 2012

Blackpowder Weapons in Greyhawk Part 2

Welcome back! For those just tuning in, go back and check this link to read my last manifesto on why blackpowder weapons belong in Greyhawk. Before I continue I'd like to add one more reference I overlooked, that was smartly pointed out to me on the Canonfire forums by "Iron Golem" and that is the appearance of blackpowder in the 2nd edition module Greyhawk Ruins. Look it up for yourself, while I move on...

In my Sea Princes campaign I use a simple set of game rules (3.5e) governing the use of guns and cannons. The stats I use for these weapons can be found in the old 3.5e DMG and in the seafaring supplement Stormwrack. Characters do not need the obscure feat "Secret of the Firebrands" to use blackpowder but instead need it in order to create them. A character must still take an Exotic Weapon proficiency or else suffer a -4 penalty to hit. This applies to each type of blackpowder weapon be it a pistol, musket, cannon or bomb.

Another restriction on these destructive weapons is that they cannot be enchanted (see below). "Masterwork" versions of these weapons can still be made at standard price increases but beyond having a customized appearance, they only afford a minor bonus to hit. Blackpowder is considered a hazardous alchemical substance that also cannot be further modified through the use of magic. In fact, merely igniting blackpowder from any other enchanted device will almost certainly result in catastrophe (99%). The jury is still out on enchanted ammo, but due to the aforementioned volatility of blackpowder, I would say trying this should at least incur a 50% chance of a firing mishap (DM choice of effect). Mundane bullets made of rare materials (like silver or cold iron) sound acceptable for overcoming special damage resistance.

The rate of fire and shorter range increment for blackpowder weapons ensures that they are still inferior to other missile weapons like long bows and crossbows which can still be enchanted along with their ammunition. This essentially makes an item like a flintlock pistol no better than a one shot item used before switching to a main melee weapon. Until the technology progresses another 500-1000 years they're pretty much more flair than effect which is perfect for a swashbuckling game. The background for how blackpowder weapons came to be developed in the Flanaess is unique to my campaign, but it should not interfere with canon in any era of Greyhawk:

The Oerids of the Great Kingdom of Aerdy were masters of the art of war, conquering all before them in no small part to the knowledge of the clergy of Delleb who once specialized (with the urging of more militant religions) in the creation of devices such as stirrups, crossbows and the trebuchet before withdrawing to more peaceful and scholarly concerns. The greatest of these Aerdian geniuses was a female engineer named Daern whose skill at building castles and defenses in Aerdy would go unmatched until the founding of Spinecastle two centuries later. Daern "the Unshakable" met her end some time after the Battle of a Fortnight's Length (-110 CY) but before her death and rumored apotheosis, she recorded much of her unfinished ideas for her loyal acolytes to finish. Among these writings was plans for the Tower of Daern (eventually built in Irongate), designs for the creation of the extra-dimenionally folding Daern's Instant Fortress, and an overlooked tome titled Components and Reactions of Phosphorus.

Murlynd an Oeridian himself, rose to some fame for carrying his strange quasi-magical "hoglegs" in early 300's when he adventured along with Zagig Yragerne and the Company of Seven. While his strange weapons were acquired from another plane this didn't stop sages and wizards from trying to copy them, yet all their attempts failed until a series of events happened long after Murlynd's adventuring career ended. In 447CY, the Iron League was formed by a group of small nations to defend against the evil of the Aerdian Overking Ivid. During the intervening century these small states (especially the Free City of Irongate), in alliance with the dwarves and gnomes of the Iron Hills would become renowned for their manufacture of quality weapons.

By the late 570's Murlynd rose to prominence again as a small-time hero-god with followers scattered throughout the central Flanaess including parts of the Iron League where his storied weapons were not forgotten by adherents of another hero-god, Daern. The subsequent rediscovery of Daern's lost manuals on blackpowder brought these two minor clergies together in a common interest, with the goal of recreating and manufacturing lesser versions of Murlynd's artifacts to give the lawful realms of the aptly named Iron League, an edge against their enemies on land and at sea. With the explosion of innovation, certain  economic and political realities would soon lead to these blackpowder weapons falling into the hands of other nations most notably the Kingdom of Nyrond, the Hold of the Sea Princes and some say the hidden Kingdom of Shar. Despite the recent proliferation of these weapons, the Iron League still remains the only good source for the blackpowder that powers them; a situation that has made the League both rich and a target for espionage.

3 comments:

Eric said...

I like the idea of gunpowder, but not too much of it! Keeping it a secret formula known only by priests or devotees of an order would be helpful, but even then only up to a point in a magical world with divinations, charms, and domination spells.

Keeping gunpowder from starting an explosion of technological innovation takes care, but I am no longer strongly against gunpowder in my Greyhawk.

There is a fantasy series by the excellent Glen Cook, called the Instrumentalities of the Night. It's like an alternate history para-Europe/Middle East, everything is renamed (but easy to figure out the real equal) where magic is real and norse dwarves and gods are real, and fey creatures are real. All the mysterious creatures are discovered to be killed by gunpowder-propelled iron. The military unit that knows the secret to it's making becomes a very popular/powerful group when the creatures from the night return to the world.

Pretty cool line of books.

mortellan said...

Until the rate of fire for guns outmatches the damage a garden variety magic wand can produce or become more common place than a sword +1 they are just a trivial substitute for magic IMO.

Victor Von Dave said...

Cool. You make a strong argument (plus pirates just aren't as cool without cannons).
I'm gearing up to run The Shackled City adventure path (set in the Amdedio) using the Pathfinder rules. The Advanced Player's Guide has some nice black powder rules (even a gunslinger class) that I'm going to incorporate. Gunpowder is still going to be rare, and I think I'll restrict the Gunslinger class to a fringe cult of Murlynd.