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5E Never Give Them Unlimited Black Powder

Fauchard1520

Explorer
There’s a reason that black powder tends to be expensive or scarce in D&D. It’s the same reason why, when my players boarded an enemy pirate ship, I chose to make it a “ballista and crossbows” kind of ship rather than the “pistols and cannons” kind. If you give players the means to blow a hole in your campaign, they’re going to bloody well find a way to do it.

So here's my questions for the board: Have any of you DMs out there made the mistake of giving the party an arbitrarily large amount of explosives? How much damage did it do, and what got blow'd up?

Comic for illustrative purposes.
 

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I learned the hard way not to do so in d20 Modern. (To nerf d20 Modern grenades, give them a wider area of effect.) I saw a GM mess up in Pathfinder and allow stockpiled alchemist explosives (turns out that's against the rules, for good reason). In a campaign where the PCs could use a signaling rocket, I replaced it with a magic item because there is no way in hell I'm letting PCs have access to explosives.

As far as I'm concerned, there is no periodic table of the elements in any fantasy setting (not devised until the 1800s in real life) so nobody actually understands chemistry at all.
 





Fanaelialae

Legend
In one of the first 3e campaigns I played in, the DM allowed one of the players to put 20 oil and an alchemists fire in a sack to create a short range AoE the dealt 20d6 fire damage, save for half (I think the DC was in the 15-20 range). It was absurd. We called them nova bombs.

In fairness, we really only used them if we felt an encounter was otherwise unwinnable. That said, they always won the encounter, regardless of how stacked the odds were.

To his credit, once he realized his mistake, our DM found ways to nerf it without retconning. Mainly by having the nova bomb reduce most treasure to molten slag. That definitely discouraged us from using them as anything other than a last resort.
 


Ancalagon

Dusty Dragon
Smokepowder is the solution. Makes a small boom so you can make functional firearms, but in large quantities only burns smokes without exploding. How’s it work? Who cares, it’s a fantasy setting, it doesn’t have to obey real-world chemistry.

.... I mean you could do that but... no? That's not how it works, and "magic!" is a weak thing. If you have firearms and don't want explosives, either accept black powder (which is ... mediocre as an explosive) or have something more clever as how it works (and how that makes it not work well as a bomb)

In 2nd ed, you could put warding spells (a variation of explosive runes) on bottles filed with oil. Dump a cart of this on a bad guy and the damage was astronomical. The worry is having a low level PC have a big explosive power. But ... that's technology. I can cast "sending" an unlimited amount of times per day (texting). It's fine, roll with it.
 

Ace

Adventurer
There’s a reason that black powder tends to be expensive or scarce in D&D. It’s the same reason why, when my players boarded an enemy pirate ship, I chose to make it a “ballista and crossbows” kind of ship rather than the “pistols and cannons” kind. If you give players the means to blow a hole in your campaign, they’re going to bloody well find a way to do it.

So here's my questions for the board: Have any of you DMs out there made the mistake of giving the party an arbitrarily large amount of explosives? How much damage did it do, and what got blow'd up?

Comic for illustrative purposes.

PC's in one game of mine though some insane critical roles (they were high end arms merchants) got a hold of a suitcase nuke. Since they had been dimension traveling they ended up trading AK's and ammo for boosting it with a magical version of naquada from Stargate . Now back on Earth with a critical failure on another roll they sold it to some really bad people who used it and blew up a country.

The merchants ended up hunted and had to hide out on a very deserted island till they could figure out how to portal back to the the fantasy world with a load of weapons where at least the evil guy they sold the AK's too would shelter them.

We still had fun though which is what counts.
 




Ace

Adventurer
Has anyone ever made the mistake of giving the PCs access to high level spells? Or powerful magic items?

Not seeing the uniqueness of the problem here. If the PCs have access to unlimited black powder than they have some options they didn't have before. So what?

A lot of DM/GM's can't even handle much in the second and third tiers of D&D and so being able to buy gunpowder something that could be done IRL by the late middle ages is too much for them.

Really if D&D didn't have a big player base and first mover advantage, a lot of people would be better off playing something else, some kind of lower magic, higher fantasy , lower powered game. Lost of monsters and spells but a lower cap

instead of capping at say 14th like B/X or 20th like others, it might cap at L or L12 like 1st edition Castles and Crusades.
Epic 6 for D20 from this very board was one such attempt and may experience with it was very good but I think it needs to be a bit higher

However people are used to D&D and its a good system everyone understands so basically a lot of lower level play happens and the occasional higher level play too.
 
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However people are used to D&D and its a good system everyone understands so basically a lot of lower level play happens and the occasional highe rlevel play too.

One of the game's advantages is its ability to accommodate a wide range of game styles, from fairly mundane to super-heroic and to transition seamlessly between them as characters rise in level
 


Dioltach

Adventurer
Tales from the Floating Vagabond listed a weapon called "Nuclear Hand Grenade". I doubt it was very popular.

Some years ago I ran a campaign that started in the Old West, but then shifted away to more traditional D&D. Once the adventure left the Old West, and they couldn't replace their bullets, I ruled that anyone rolling a natural 1 with their firearm had run out.
 

Ace

Adventurer
I've had the same problem with poison. Poison is never expensive enough.

I think this is more a GM assumption vs Player assumption problem than a cost of poison one. Toxic stuff IRL can be foraged after all.

In many games the general game focus was supposed to be say exciting action scenes or what I like to call mutual assured stupidity, that is where everyone monster and player is using fairly rudimentary tactics . The problem comes when players go all spec ops and start using every dirty trick to win. Players that are pragmatic to the level of ruthless and even cruel can wreck havoc on DM/GM assumptions.

The solution is not to worry about the cost of poison but to communicate with the players what is fun for you. Now I am fine with it as I can give as well as I get. Not everyone enjoys that though.

Note also such things go both ways. Fantasy Fracking Vietnam with Tucker's Kobolds can be fun but only with the right group and while geek the mage (basically everyone attack casters as primary threats) makes sense its not fun for players. use only when its clearly communicated it is that kind of game.

Frankly I think most game problems come not from system but from lack of communication or on occasion, game groups being incompatible. The fomer is usually easy to fix but not always sometimes you can't change player or make it work. If thi sis the case, try and get into what the group is into. If you can, you'll have more fun. If not, well its not 1981. Go play Skyrim or do something else.
 

jasper

Rotten DM
I reskin S3 Expedition to Barrier Peaks using the Starship Enterprise as the floor plans. I gave them phasers which recharged under direct sunlight. OOPS. And they were upset when I try to take them away or down grade them. But my high school group was a toxic group.
 

Would you allow unlimited Holy Water? Unlimited Alchemist's Fire?

Treat it like you would any other alchemical item: make it expensive to buy and time consuming to make. If PC's are cleaning out the local alchemists of something like that, people are going to ask questions, people are going to talk, those alchemists are going to mention to the guards or a noble they might know that someone's been stockpiling the stuff.

How would you treat a magic item that was essentially a one-shot fireball item anyone could activate but was bulky? That's essentially what a small keg of gunpowder would be.

Even when D&D has been officially used to represent historic eras, it was always 1650 or earlier (both the 2e Historic Reference series ended at that year, and the 3e d20 Past for using d20 Modern to depict pre-modern times began at circa 1650), when firearms were still expensive, gunpowder was time consuming and difficult to make and obtaining the raw materials in bulk was sometimes difficult. The Gunpowder Plot in Britain was in 1605, so the use of gunpowder for something PC's might do (use a LOT of it to attempt to assassinate a King) is possible. . .but remember the Gunpowder Plot failed.
 

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