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    Why gunpowder doesn't work on Oerth
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    Adept Greytalker

    Joined: Jul 29, 2006
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    From: Dantredun, MN

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    Fri Oct 13, 2017 11:43 am  
    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?

    Quote:
    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.
    Black Hand of Oblivion

    Joined: Feb 16, 2003
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    Fri Oct 13, 2017 6:19 pm  

    No, there are no gunpowder weapons in this *SWORD & SORCERY* world. somehow doesn't suffice? Laughing
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    Last edited by Cebrion on Sun Oct 15, 2017 1:41 am; edited 1 time in total
    GreySage

    Joined: Aug 03, 2001
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    Fri Oct 13, 2017 11:16 pm  

    It wasn't a good enough explanation for Murlynd...
    GreySage

    Joined: Aug 03, 2001
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    Sat Oct 14, 2017 2:41 pm  

    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.
    Apprentice Greytalker

    Joined: Jul 17, 2017
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    Sun Oct 15, 2017 12:11 am  

    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).

    Plus it's great for pirates. Razz
    Black Hand of Oblivion

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    Sun Oct 15, 2017 1:19 am  

    rasgon wrote:
    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." rolleyes Laughing

    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." Wink
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    Adept Greytalker

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    Mon Oct 16, 2017 10:26 am  

    Cebrion wrote:
    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!
    TSR: No.
    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...
    Black Hand of Oblivion

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    Thu Oct 19, 2017 12:44 am  

    Certainly a good point! Happy I do prefer to ignore the bad ideas, though sometimes I just cringe and bear it. Lazy! Laughing
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    Forum Moderator

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    Thu Oct 19, 2017 8:14 pm  

    Even though the guys got a good handle on this answer, here is some more proof that I dredged up years ago. Enjoy.

    http://greyhawkery.blogspot.com/2012/01/blackpowder-weapons-in-greyhawk.html
    Adept Greytalker

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    Sun Oct 22, 2017 8:10 pm  

    Cebrion wrote:

    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.

    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?


    I get what you're saying, but it can admittedly be a fun challenge to try and explain why things are the way they are, and the explanation doesn't necessarily have to be complicated.

    Q: Why don't fossil fuels, gunpowder, or steam engines work on Oerth the way they do in real life.
    A: Because some of Oerth's chemical and physical laws are different from the real world's.

    See how easy that is? Now you can explain why gunpowder will either be inert or will simply explode and kill or maim you if you try to use it, why steam engines will simply explode and maim or kill everyone around them with shrapnel and scalding-hot water, and why your car engine doesn't respond even when it's full of oil.

    vestcoat wrote:

    Peaking behind the curtain can certainly be "veil-crushing," but it can also enrich the game. GH has a long history of inspiring explanations.

    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...


    Or, you can do what I do and simply overrule canon:

    Canon: The City of the Gods in Blackmoor is a city of scientific marvels resulting from the Beagle's crashing in Blackmoor.
    The "Real" Explanation: The Beagle was incinerated in Oerth's atmosphere and never made it to Oerth in the first place. The City of the Gods is a literal creation of the gods, peopled by sentinels sent by the gods to guard against the horrors of Dread Tharizdun imprisoned beneath the Black Ice.

    Canon: The Tenhas are lazy, arrogant and fundamentally gutless.
    The "Real" Explanation: The Tenhas are courageous badasses, which is why they managed to hold their own against the Theocracy of the Pale and were outright victorious against the Hold of Stonefist, before sealing Rockegg Pass forever, during the Greyhawk Wars.

    Canon: Geoff and Sterich were overrun by the giants during the Greyhawk Wars, even though the giants' original efforts in 576 CY failed.
    The "Real" Explanation: The giants only made one effort, and that in 581 CY. King Snurre Iron Belly had used his charisma to rally a huge giant army, but the deaths of him, Grugnur and Nosnra decapitated the giants' leadership. The giant army attacked anyway during the Wars, but they were a disorganized group of mobs who spent as much time fighting each other as the peoples of Geoff, Sterich and the Yeomanry. King Galmoor attempted to rally the giant army under his own leadership, but his efforts failed when he was himself killed by one of the heroes who battled the original giant leaders. Geoff, Sterich and the Yeomanry all emerged triumphant from the Wars, albeit at a terrible cost.

    Again, it's easier than it seems at first glance.
    Black Hand of Oblivion

    Joined: Feb 16, 2003
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    Wed Oct 25, 2017 7:30 am  

    CruelSummerLord wrote:
    I get what you're saying, but it can admittedly be a fun challenge to try and explain why things are the way they are, and the explanation doesn't necessarily have to be complicated.

    Q: Why don't fossil fuels, gunpowder, or steam engines work on Oerth the way they do in real life.
    A: Because some of Oerth's chemical and physical laws are different from the real world's.

    See how easy that is? Now you can explain why gunpowder will either be inert or will simply explode and kill or maim you if you try to use it, why steam engines will simply explode and maim or kill everyone around them with shrapnel and scalding-hot water, and why your car engine doesn't respond even when it's full of oil.

    Kwalish: The project has been theoretical up to this point, but you are just in time to see me try out my newest apparatus! I call it...the steam engine! Initial tests in my extra-dimensional safe work space have yielded promising results, but this will be the first time trying it out on Oerth.

    Tenser: Ummm. How does it work?

    Kwalish: [unleashes tiny fire elemental in the apparatus' works] Well, this is only a small bench top model...a toy really...and is quite simple, you see. The captured elemental super heats the water in this containment vessel here, creating steam pressure, which serves to power this axle he-"
    BOOM!!!

    Tenser's Next Clone: Dammit!

    Only on Oerth. Laughing
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    Adept Greytalker

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    Wed Oct 25, 2017 2:33 pm  

    Gods bless bulletin board forums. Discussion on Facebook never gets this good.
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