Creating.. gunpowder as reagents?

Subjects says it all. :slight_smile:
Could the rules in Art and Academe for reagents be used to create gunpowder? I mean, the Chinese had it in the 9th century.

So using the rules for reagents, how would we create gunpowder and what would the rules for it be in Ars Magica?

In my opinion, because of the small amounts that can be created each season, it wouldn't be practical to use it in firearms just yet.

Also, from what I read, the earliest mention of gunpowder in Europe was in the middle of the 13th century, so it's not that far off.

Any opinions?


It would certainly be possible to concoct a powder which propagates a flame when lit. I'd use the Level 4 guideline (increase the heat of fire), and the intensity of the flame produced would be determined by the Alteration; Slight would just create a flare of sparks, for example. In practical terms, the reagent is matter infused with many atoms of fire; when fire is brought near, the natural tendency for fire to separate is initiated, and all the fire atoms are released at once. Bigger Alterations have more fire atoms packed into them.

While it could be used as part of an invention in guns, you mustn't forget that the physics of Mythic Europe may not allow guns to actually be effective. Due to a lack of momentum, an object propelled at great speed (such as a bullet following an explosion) would not hit with greater force - it would just go further. Thus being hit by a small projectile would do as much damage as if a pea-shooter had been used.

If you want to more damage then throw large things (like cannon balls), not small things with great force. It all depends if you want Mythic Europe to develop in the same way as Medieval Europe through the Renaissance into the gunpowder era, or whether you are happy to allow different physical rules to alter the course of history. Either is possible; it is only as science becomes more developed that it will have a major impact on significant historical events.



Well, the way I see the setting is that magic and wonder is gradually disappearing from the world, and the way things work in the game will actually start to change when science becomes more and more common, and magic becomes rarer and rarer. Maybe it has something to do with the spread of the Dominion?
In any case, I like the idea that the perception of people in Mythic Europe makes it real, so to speak. But when this perception changes with the rise of science and rationality, what is "real" also changes. This is, of course, an extremely slow process.


"The time of heroes is dead: the Christ god has killed it, leaving nothing but weeping martyrs and fear and shame." -Beowulf

It wont develop "historically", just think about it with mages running around all they have to do is be near enough to see any storage of gunpowder to make it go BOOOOM with a rather low level spell...
Lvl 4 base to make sure the fire gets through any container, Target Part +1, Range Sight +3, lvl 20 total, meaning its well in range for just about any magi, even many apprentices.
I expect the order would be swamped with cases of accusations of "court wizard" in the blink of an eye though.
Though a not too problematic solution would to start selling items with charges of that or a similar spell.
For severe evilness, change target to group and size to +1, allowing you to blow up all the stored gunpowder a hundred soldiers have with them.

Once that happens a few times, noone will want to play with gunpowder any more.

Might be useful for magi, due to parma, as a "booster" effect for close ranged fire spells.
Enchanted items or the occasional magi willing to "help" is far far better options for majority who might be tempted at using gunpowder weapons though.

Personally i prefer to handle physics realistically and just let perception of it to be perception, not ruling the physics.
And also i would say that much of that ME physics is a rather extreme interpretation of what there actually was.

An example is that for as long as there has been siege engines, the best of those handling them seems to have been quite well aware of how to apply the right amount of force with them.
Momentum existed, it just wasnt properly understood or described.

Well, the setting won't develop historically, but close to it, at least in my campaign. As a storyguide, I let history run it's course, and the magi won't change important events.
When explaining the setting to new players, I often say that "what's real is what most people believed". When most people start believing in other things, reality changes a bit.
So to stay with the topic of this thread, when most people learn about gunpowder and see it used in cannons and such, it works. If the PCs were to travel to China in my campaign, they would see working gunpowder. :slight_smile:


Interesting - belief defines reality rather than reality defines belief. ::grins:: Not seen that one for a while. Most games seem to be shifting towards an objective setting again.

Either way, Gunpowder could be an alchemical concoction to propell things. It produces vast quantities of smoke, after all, which is a form of air, and it is the air which provides the secondary force after the initial mover (I lack my book, so I can't remember the correct terms.) Gunpowder is therefore a substance which, upon contact with fire, releases the air within it and this propels your projectile. Other problems will arise like the lack of momentum though, so you're probably going to want to fire spears rather than spheres.

As pointed out, gunpowder is a terrible weapon against magi. However, this only really applies to those magi with power over fire which is a fairly small subset. As such, whilst it's a nearly useless weapon against the Order, it'd be damned useful against other mundanes and magical beasts, not to mention the fae. And, of course, any Hermetic detonating the powder supplies of an army is going to be accused of acting as a Court Wizard in fairly short order. Finally, I seem to recall crossbows being decried as evil because they allowed a peasant to slay a knight too easily. Gunpowder is surely worse and then I imagine that the smell will make it rapidly associated with the Infernal that the fall in popularity would be as swift as the rise.

Not to mention the many faeries who would just love fireworks.

I reread the whole metaphysics part of the book, and it seems to me that gunpowder could work. On page 26 of A&A, it says that fire (and water) "can propagate the precipitate motion of an object". I would say that gunpowder comes from fire is the initial mover of the bullet. The bullet, wouldn't travel faster in Mythic Europe, but it would impact harder because of the strength of the initial mover. Says so on "Consequences of Motion" on page 26.

So gunpowder weapons would work, in my opinion. If they're good against Ignem-wielding Magi, that's a different matter. But in Mythic Europe, most people will never even meet a Magus, and most don't even know they exist (anywhere else than in bad dreams, of course :smiling_imp: )


That means that a bullet could move through fire or water, just as it does through air. In fact, it moves better through fire than it does air, because the resistance is less. The key word is 'propagate', not 'generate'. I think you are confusing the initial mover with the subsequent mover.

In the case of gunpowder, the subsequent mover is still air. I'm not disagreeing that fire could act as an initial mover, and you are correct in that it is the force of that mover which determines damage. However, without an explicit notion of explosive force, there's nothing to suggest that a fiery generans is stronger than any other. Fire is the least solid and most ephemeral of the elements, and the notion that it could be more forceful is out of period. Remember that C13-C14 gunpowder wasn't used to propel projectiles by constraining the blast in a barrel. That was a later notion. It was used principally for 'bombs' and stick grenades.

I'm not trying to be obstinate here. Clearly, you are not bound to following the Mythic Europe paradigm or real science, but can decide for yourself how it works. I'm not being wholly authoritative either; although I've read extensively on these topics, there wasn't blackpowder prior to the C13 in the west, so there is no in-period consideration of how it might work. I'm merely trying to extrapolate from what was known.

How about this:

The explosive force of fire - an exploding mill, for example - could be described by the fire atoms infusing solid matter in such a density that they acquire the centrifugal property of fire and are flung upwards into the air (The natural motion of fire is away from the centre of the earth). As the objects fly, the fire atoms burn off (that is, are released), and they lose their upward motion to come crashing down to earth again.

If blackpowder is an alchemical reagent that is enriched with fire atoms, perhaps it works in a similar way. Anything in contact with the reagent when it starts to burn suddenly acquires a superabundance of fire atoms, granting it a brief centrifugal action - that is, it flies into the air. Combine this with a forceful initial mover, and you have upwards and lateral movement; the angle of flight would be determined by the relative forces, but at the very least your missile will be lighter than a normal chunk of metal, so the resistance of the subsequent mover would be comparatively less. It would take a great deal of experimentation to get the sideways motion just right, but a gun might be possible.

As far as I'm aware, this simplistic explanation does not contradict the C13 viewpoint; but the view of motion is one of the most difficult areas of philosophy to understand.



Ah, I see. Lots of difficult English words in there too. :stuck_out_tongue:

Thing is that on one side, I want to keep to the Mythic Paradigm as close as possible, but on the other side, I want to keep it as historical as possible. I can easily see an alchemist or magus of Verditius invent gunpowder and a way to make bombs and cannons.

I like your idea with fire atoms affecting other atoms with their upwards motion. Bullets and cannon balls don't travel in a straight line, but a curve.
Could be fun with scenes in the lab where the philosopher uses too much fire at once (explosive force?) on too small an item, and the item just travels straight up through the roof of the lab. :slight_smile:

But this brings up a question. Does thrown weapons like daggers and missile weapons like bows give bonus to damage for higher Strength?


Sorry, my bad. If you need anything explained, just ask.

It is certainly not something you want to get wrong! Experimentation can be a painful lesson.

They do in the rules. You could argue that it is the strength of the initial mover which is imparted when a missile hits, and that's why strong people do more damage. But by the paradigm, the missile is not going any faster that one thrown by a weakling.


But how about the missile, be it bullet, thrown axe or arrow, carries with it the strength of the initial mover. In a gunpowder weapon, the strength of the wielder is just changed with the strength of the explosion.

I think even the most ignorant peasant in the middle ages knew that an axe thrown by a strong man would kill an enemy more quickly than one thrown by a weakling. If it flies any faster when thrown by a strong man, that's not something the peasant knew anything about :slight_smile:


I would disagree as it is something that could be noted during regular life.

Anyway, one thing that bears mentioning as well is the fact that early gunpowder weapons were overall quite terrible.
The big reason for becoming popular was ease, its far easier to train someone to use a musket than a longbow(or any bow), its much easier to make a decent musket than a good enough bow.
Muskets and firearms can be massproduced, bows cannot, bullets and powder can be massproduced, arrows can not.

Any crossbow except light ones or those meant for lesser hunting is considerably more powerful than a musket.
If using historical guns, you will need one of the early "personal cannons" if you want something thats truly more powerful than any bow or crossbow, and those fire 1/4 to 1 pound balls and weighs twice or more than even an early musket.

Also not to forget, crossbows were more powerful, FAR more accurate and commonly lighter than the vast majority of firearms up until 17th century. They could compete with firearms up until well into 19th century.
Their big disadvantage seems to have been cost and being much more problematic to use with closed ranks due to the "bow" being horizontal. Its lack of a "scary bang", especially as muskets used in groups produced probably helped as well, especially since it appeared in a world where loud bangs was not the norm.

Given it takes a skilled alchemist knowing the formula working for a whole season in an adequately equipped and supplied laboratory to prepare a bit black powder, I'm not sure how you can say it can be "mass produced". Sure, lab assistants can help, but only to a point.

Anyway, that black powder thing can be handy to have, and alchemists may be easier to find and to deal with than those so-called "gifted" creeps of the "Hoarder Of Her Myth" (whatever that means, just proves they're crazy), but I've found that a wand of Pila of Fire is so much better if you can get it. Plus throwing bolts of flame around scares the peasants quite satisfactorily.

Well, some Verditius with a blatants disregard for the Code could mass produce gunpowder. Well, any magus with a bit of Finesse and Rego-magic could do it. :slight_smile:

The reason I'm asking about this is to know how knowledge and science Mythic Europe progresses. Will the Mythic Paradigm change with time, when people start know more of the realities of the world around them?

As I mentioned earlier, my idea is that the Mythic Paradigm is gradually dying, perhaps with the spread of the dominion. Magic is going away, replaced by logic and science. But this is a slow process in the eyes of the common man. What people believe determine the Mythic Paradigm, in a way. So the way I see it, 800 years from where the setting is now, that is, in our time, the world will be much like ours, with myth and legends having died a long time ago.


Not really, no, though you can sure play it that way. "Belief defines reality" was prevalent in 3rd edition (and caused much spilled electrons), with Mythic Europe turning into the White Wolf's World of Darkness., but it has been pretty decisively ruled that the reason why people believe in Magic is because Magic exists, not the other way round.

Now, social changes sure may happen, such as if you rule that black powder can lead to mass-produced, effective weapons (as others mentioned, the physics appear to say no, due to the non-existence of momentum). That's entirely up to you to decide; as you yourself noted, Magic itself has much "Industrial" Revolution potential.

But the dominion is itself part of the Mythic Paradigm. That it excludes other realms doesn't make it less supernatural. And until the ultimate victory of Good over Evil (which would leave something much, much different from our world), the Infernal isn't going away either. So that's at least two realms out of four that are likely to endure for a long, long time, even if Magic and Faerie get crowded out.

Mythic Europe's physics is inherently different from ours and Auras of Reason are gone gone gone. The metaphysics in Art and Academe are correct. God won't disappear in a puff of logic from Babel Fish-related sophistry. I honestly don't think that A&A was intended to put Ars Magica on that path again.

The mutability of faeries is probably the closest you'll get to BDR, though we'll have to wait for RoP:F to know for sure. In the meantime, I'd expect that the future of Mythic Europe be some more Mythic Europe, with the Biblical Apocalypse (no, not the WW one) right at the end, complete with horsemen and trumpeting angels.

Back in good old historical reality... I stated the reasons why obveiously inferior weapons still became the standard weapons historically. Somehow i think AM rules doesnt retroactively change that.

Ingame it might be enough to make gunpowder weapons a totally useless alternative, at least until someone figures out how to massproduce it cheaply like historically.

Indeed! And we most certainly do NOT want to go back towards 3 ed with its screwy "Reason aura". While it had its good sides, 3 ed is the only one i really dont like much.

Remember you´re playing a game based on magic here?
Its not that it wont work without it, but whats the point?

In the setting, magic DO exist, it wont go away(even if it might be diminished). That doesnt mean there wont be an industrial revolution, it might even happen earlier because of it, because magi can do some things much more easily that might help it along.

Yes, yes, I know magic exists in the setting. :stuck_out_tongue: And I won't change that in any of my campaigns. But I just don't want to end up removing big, historical changes because of it. See my point?

Edit: hey, this might be an idea. I remember reading somewhere that when gunpowder came to the battlefield, some people, nobles especially, believed it was made by the Devil, due to the "ungodly noise and black smoke". Maybe, in Mythic Europe, there is a "Gratzack, demon of the Black Powder" somewhere, plotting the downfall of castles and city walls. He's not very powerful now, but he will rise, and with him comes his Infernal Invention. twisted:


What's more, the Church was already against the use of crossbows against Christians, imagine what it'd think about such blatantly Infernal weapons.

Gunpowder would then actually be made by infernalists serving this demon (who's a Deluder, I might think?). The demon is, of course, working behind the scenes, but in reality, gunpowder is an infernal substance, breaking the laws of "mythic reality". Powermongers and other nasty generals will be seduced the "advantages" of this new weapon, and the demon would grow in power. :smiling_imp:

So every time a bomb goes off or a hand cannon is fired in the future of Mythic Europe, the demon gains a tiny bit of power. Also, since using this substance is a sin, battlefields where loads of gunpowder were used might gain Infernal Auras.

Ideas, ideas :slight_smile: