The Devil's Black Powder :)

Ok, here I go again :smiling_imp:

I'm thinking about using, or letting the character know about, black powder in my campaign. I know it didn't appear in Europe for some time yet. It was mentioned in a book by Roger Bacon between 1248 and 1257:

"We can, with saltpeter and other substances, compose artificially a fire that can be launched over long distances... By only using a very small quantity of this material much light can be created accompanied by a horrible fracas. It is possible with it to destroy a town or an army ... In order to produce this artificial lightning and thunder it is necessary to take saltpeter, sulfur, and Luru Vopo Vir Can Utriet." -Roger Bacon (the last bit is some kind of code, it seem).

Anyway, I read somewhere, that when gunpowder appeared, it created the superstition that it was the work of the devil, and of course, in Ars Magica, it would be just that. So I give you:

"The Devil's Black Powder"
Maleficia (Incantation/Effusion 15)
Range: Touch, Target: Individual, Duration: Momentary
This effect is placed into a flammable black powder, using a level 15 version of "The Stone Prepared, His Gift to Grant with Foulest Craft He Does Enchant". When the powder is ignited and destroyed, the object touching it (let's say a bullet) will be violently shot away from it, doing +10 damage.

Now, I'm unsure about the range here. When a magic item just wants to hurl an item through the air by touching it, is the range touch, or should the range be how far the item is hurled?
(see RoP: Infernal page 108 for the guidelines I've used).

Any thoughts?

My thought is that it is a cool idea. I would make sure that they KNOW it is evil. Let's see if they want to use it. Make sure to scar their souls if they do :wink:



I'm thinking that there should be a specific demon for this, the "engineer" of the black powder. :slight_smile:

Of course, Hermetic magic can easily create this effect, but the problem is to give it to the general unGifted public. Could Reagents (from A&A) created by Learned Magicians create a similar effect through Alchemy? Alchemy thus inspired by the infernal, but Alchemy non the less.


Being an idea of the Devil, it might be that any blackpowder will be tainted no matter what is its origin.

I like the concept of the Engineer, but I would make him The Alchemist.



You might want to check the last edition of Sub Rosa; I wrote an article describing "black powder" as an alchemical reagent and discussed how it might work in an Aristotlean universe.

There was a later book by Bacon which gave a clear, uncoded recipe.

I like this take on explosives. However, I'm not sure how widespread the 'work of the devil' idea was; and we are not running a Belief Defines Reality paradigm; rather an Aristotlean paradigm.

Nevertheless, the idea of making it the Devil's work is a neat one.


But would the effect placed into the powder require Touch range or something else? The powder "touches" the Individual bullet, (target could be Group for infernal grenades with shrapnel and such), but how far would the bullet then fly?

If this was a Hermetic effect, then the Range would be the range to the target. An Incantation of Lightning leaps from your hand, but the Range is Voice. There's no reason to suspect that Maleficia would be any different.

Incidently, bullets would be useless in an Aristotlean world. The fact that they are moving fast gives them no extra damage*. You should be thinking of black powder as a way of more efficiently flinging large objects.

*as my article describes (plug, plug) the study of ballistics was one of the reasons that Aristotlean motion was overturned in Historic Europe. Never before had things moved this fast.


But wouldn't a bullet be shot out with a huge amount of strength when an explosion is trapped in a barrel or other container? True, in Ars Magica, it wouldn't go any faster because of this, but wouldn't it have more strength to travel through the resistances of whatever it met in it's flight?

I'm getting Sub Rosa now, by the way :slight_smile:


It would go further, yes. But the damage it does when it hits is determined by its mass and its shape, not by the fact it was moving. A small bullet would do no more damage just because it has been flung from a gun than it would if it had been launched from a sling, dropped by an eagle, or thrown by a child.

Early experiments with ballistics revolved around flinging huge rocks, cannonballs, and spears. No-one thought to experiment with small pieces of lead since it was assumed they would be useless.


But according to A&A, a person's strength helps the object move through the resistance of the air. Would not the same strength help the object move through the resistance of other materials, like flesh and bone? If the strength is greater, wouldn't more units of material be moved through, as it retains strength from the initial mover (in this case the explosion)?

The bullet wouldn't go any faster (in Mythic Europe) but it would hit with greater force due to the power of the initial mover? Same concept as with a crossbow, where the initial mover is not the person wielding it, but the crossbow it self.


(I just payed for Sub Rosa, but haven't received it yet)

Sorry, but what was their explanation for the additional penetrating power of advances in bow technology? To me, this seems a bridge too far in that it seems to deny basic simulation of real events.

I agree with you. However, the laws of motion weren't seriously reconsidered until the age of gunpowder, at least according to what I've read. There was an active culture against empiricism until the early fourteenth century; perhaps that's it.


In academic circles you might be right (and way better informed than me for sure!!!) but did that happen in more "mundane" sources? After all shhting techniques did improve late in the 13th century right?




If I had to guess - and it's only a guess - I'd say that there was a wide disconnect between the Academic community, which was largely one of philosophers, and the military one, which was largely comprised of the lowest commoners and brutal professional warriors. I mean, what can a man of education and science learn from a common thug or an uneducated bowmaker? Any tales they tell are surely naive exaggerations.

Since empiricism was not a concept (or not a widely popular or refined one), no one thought to find an out-dated bow and a new one and compare them. And if, by some chance, they did, it must be the craftsmanship, or the age of the weapon, right?

This occurred regularly with animals, where the philosophers "knew" what Aristotle taught them, while trappers and foresters knew the truth about an animal. Even today, with all our telecommunications and databases, local tribes or simple craftsmen have shown understandings of some quirks of technology or science that academicians are blissfully unaware of, having never thought to look.

"A bow is a bow, they kill people, and it's not possible to kill someone "better than dead"... now, what's the question, my son? Leave the philosophy to those who have studied it..." :unamused:

But let's go back to the question in the topic, or rather something similar. If I wanted to make gunpowder using magic, alchemy or maleficia, what would the effect be? The bullet itself is not magical, but the powder is. Say we make it as charged items, and the effect is that anything in contact with it when it is lit up, is violently slung away.
Can someone help me design the effect? :slight_smile:



It would be a powder version of the ReTe10 Sling of Vilano effect, dont you think?



For game rules, gunpowder seems to me to be like a version of Obliteration of the Metallic Barrier, only cast on the material itself.

As for Roger Bacon and gunpowder, my thought is that it would be interesting if Bacon tried to interest the Order in gunpowder first, but the Colentes suppressed it, so he published it to the Pope. There's a lot of possibilities for politics there even before you get to the reality of gunpowder.

Yes, I would think so. So maybe "The Alchemist" in my campaign is actually not a demon, but a mad Verditius Magus with some infernal virtues from RoP: Infernal? He begins to produce "The Powder of Boom!" or something similar, selling it to the mundanes. This is to create strife and chaos. Muahhaaa :smiling_imp:

Ehm.. yes... but I'm still eager to see what's been cooked up in the new Sub Rosa. The ideal way of making gunpoweder in Ars Magica, in my opinion, is as a Reagent.