Posted: Fri Oct 13, 2017 11:43 am Post subject: Why gunpowder doesn't work on Oerth
A very interesting post on the Empyrea FB page today, presumably by Frank Mentzer. Did Gygax or any other sources ever give a different explanation?
Fire in Empyrea
The invention of black power in AD 800s Terran brought us muskets, pistols, cannons, and more.
Big picture: The immortals have ceded Terran space to humans. These may indeed be their eventual successors, so they truncated the space (making magic problematic), leaving Man to his Tech and hubris. In a trillion years, maybe Tech WILL supplant magic; wait and see.
Learning from the experience, the immortals discussed matters with those who run the Elemental Plane of Fire, and decided to curtail chemical explosions in promising magic-based civilizations (maybe THEY will replace the immortals).
Chemical explosions just don't work. Things burn, sure, and flare up... but flour mill detonations don't happen, forest fires are a lot less tragic, and a peasant with a pistol can't assassinate Archduke Ferdinand and start a world war.
Lethality in Empyrea is a matter of personal skill, tactics, and thought -- not just a lucky shot.
Joined: Aug 03, 2001 Posts: 2771 Location: Michigan
Posted: Sat Oct 14, 2017 2:41 pm Post subject:
By which I mean, it's a question that might come up in campaigns that include interplanar or space travel to worlds where gunpowder/smokepowder works, or campaigns that include Murlynd as an NPC. It's important in Frank Mentzer's campaign because the conflict between the competing paradigms of magic and technology is a major theme there.
Obviously, an explanation like this is less necessary in a campaign that's strictly sword and sorcery.
Would it be fair to re-purpose crossbow related feats for use with firearms?
I suppose I have an easier time excepting firearms in settings that have a very late Medieval/early Renaissance feel to them (especially in worlds where full plate, pocket watches, and telescopes/spyglasses already exist).
Joined: Feb 16, 2003 Posts: 3571 Location: So. Cal
Posted: Sun Oct 15, 2017 1:19 am Post subject:
It wasn't a good enough explanation for Murlynd...
It wasn't intended to be, but then one dosn't use the exception to define the rule. That is the problem with what was done.
I understand the Empyrea issue, but this isn't Empyrea. I just find it more than a bit eye rolling that, in a fantasy world full of mysteries, everyone just has to have a peek behind every curtain. If somebody desires something to be a certain way, and the reason for it is going to be revealed when it surely doesn't need to be, there should be a decently good reason. If there isn't, ultimately a cop-out explanation can lead to other veil crushing "explanations", continuity/compatibility problems, and worse.
Here is the reason for vestcoat then. Why do gun powder weapons not work in Greyhawk? "Because magic." Horrible reason, but EGG apparently didn't want them there. He caved on hobbits and monks, but guns? Dammit! This is a FANTASY setting! He likely wanted to put an unequivocal kabosh on gun powder weapons just so nobody would feel able to start any further shenanigans. Why does Murlynd have "hog legs" then? Because he didn't get them in Greyhawk, where he couldn't get them in the first place because they don't exist there. The real reason he has them is because EGG and company gamed some weird cross-over stuff in the early days, and it got held over and referenced in Greyhawk. "Because magic" is not exactly a good reason for them not to work, but it is one that is mentioned. It is the disingenuous answer, and the cop-out answer, and it unfortunately leads to the question, "Well, if that is true, then exactly how does magic impede gun power from working, and what else might it affect?" can of worms being foolishly opened. Do we have to become fantasy (al)chemists and write a "Magic & Chemical Compounds in the World of Greyhawk" article now? "Because magic" was a horrible answer, in all ways.
If nobody else has gun powder weapons in Greyhawk but Murlynd, there is no issue as to whether gun powder weapons work in Greyhawk or not to begin with, and Murlynd then doesn't then need any "special quasi-deity powers" to make his guns work, "Because magic." To compound the issue further, Greyhawk doesn't seem to have much of a problem with the function of the laser weapons, grenades, etc. that may be acquired if one goes on the Expedition to the Barrier Peaks. "Well, those are...um...not gun powder weapons, but energy weapons. The laws of magic, and all. Totally different, you see."
So, if there even needs to be a reason, it is a horrible thing to say gunpowder weapons do not work in Greyhawk, "Because magic." One doesn't need a cop-out explanation for something that is not there in the first place. It is far better to say gun powder weapons simply do not exist in Greyhawk. But Murlynd has them. Yes, he does, and nobody knows what they are or where he got them, because he surely didn't get them in Greyhawk (which doesn't have them) and he isn't sharing where he got them, or the secret of their true nature with anyone either. And so people who encounter him might see him holding metal "wands" that emit smoke and fire and kill from a distance, and that they only work when you put these strange little metal things into them a certain way. That is all they need to know. And the power cells for the laser weapons and other junk in Barrier Peaks will run out, so that "problem" solves itself, or should we have another horrible answer that leads us down the road of writing a "Magic & Technology in the World of Greyhawk" article too?
And now, instead of ruminating further on this, I'll go back to what I was doing, which is adventuring...in the Barrier Peaks...with Murlynd, and with my characters asking, "What the heck are those?" but not really expecting an answer from him other than, "Oh, they are something I found on an adventure, in a faraway realm." _________________ - Moderator/Admin/Member -
If there isn't, ultimately a cop-out explanation can lead to other veil crushing "explanations", continuity/compatibility problems, and worse.
Peaking behind the curtain can certainly be "veil-crushing," but it can also enrich the game. GH has a long history of inspiring explanations.
Gygax: Gunpowder doesn't work because *magic*
Mentzer: Yes! The Gods made an agreement with the Princes of Elemental Fire! As a side effect, flour mills don't explode and forest fires are tamer on Oerth.
Estes: Mika killed Iuz!
Rasgon: Actually, that was one of Iuz's imposters during his imprisoned years. These were mentioned in early canon, but ignored in all other sources. Thanks Estes!
Cook: Vecna killed the CoE!
GH fans everywhere: **** that. Clones?
Moore: Yes! That's why the Circle wasn't active for the outbreak of the GH Wars.
GH is full of bad bits of canon and ill conceived ideas. Justifying them is fun and usually makes the world better. Finally getting a real gunpowder explanation from one of the original auxiliary GH creators (Arneson, Mentzer, Kuntz, Lakofka, Marcela-Froideval) after all of these years is exciting and Frank's idea is pretty good. Now there's potential for Pyremius or Joramy to throw a wrench in things. Maybe the ToEE convinces the Sultan of Brass to pull out of the ancient agreement...
You cannot post new topics in this forum You cannot reply to topics in this forum You cannot edit your posts in this forum You cannot delete your posts in this forum You cannot vote in polls in this forum