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5E Never Give Them Unlimited Black Powder

Tales from the Floating Vagabond listed a weapon called "Nuclear Hand Grenade". I doubt it was very popular.
Paranoia had a Nuclear Hand Grenade as an R&D item in one adventure once.

The listed instructions were:
1. Pull Pin
2. Throw HARD.

In the same vein, I'd also like to point out the M-28 "Davy Crockett" recoilless rifle, a tactical nuclear rocket launcher from the Cold War in the 1960's. The effective range of the rocket was significantly less than the minimum safe distance of the warhead.
 

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

Unlimited? No. Magic items have expensive costs, treasure is limited, and magic can be controlled (Dispel Magic, Antimagic Field, etc). On occasion I hear about someone destroying the economy because they used some spell combo to turn dirt into gold or something though. (Hasn't happened in any game I've been in.) One time my PCs tried to turn a magic orb that could use Gust of Wind at will into a perpetual motion machine, and even that wasn't broken because it was intelligent, there was only one of it, and it had a downside (could drive people insane just by talking to it).

Even Eberron doesn't have "unlimited magic" with its Dragonmarked powered magic items (there aren't that many member of House X).
 

Ancalagon

Dusty Dragon
Unlimited? No. Magic items have expensive costs, treasure is limited, and magic can be controlled (Dispel Magic, Antimagic Field, etc). On occasion I hear about someone destroying the economy because they used some spell combo to turn dirt into gold or something though. (Hasn't happened in any game I've been in.) One time my PCs tried to turn a magic orb that could use Gust of Wind at will into a perpetual motion machine, and even that wasn't broken because it was intelligent, there was only one of it, and it had a downside (could drive people insane just by talking to it).

Even Eberron doesn't have "unlimited magic" with its Dragonmarked powered magic items (there aren't that many member of House X).

That brings an interesting point - what can unlimited magic do? What could go wrong? If you want to explore that, I highly recommend "Magical Industrial Revolution".
 

Aelryinth

Explorer
Tucker's Kobolds are great theory crafting, but there's so many ways to get rid of them with magic the players had to be idiots. You simply set out to get rid of them, and they die easy.

On controlling tech items: Rule 1 of Combustible Materials: The more combustible a material is, the more likely it is to spontaneously combust.

Alchemical fire is carefully sealed for a reason. Black powder is doled out in small lots. If you put a bunch of black/smoke powder together, especially in a highly combustible format, it's entirely likely it will blow apart right on the spot as it starts attracting random fire spirits hungry for some fun.

So, if you make alchemical bombs, right about when you put it together is about when it explodes in your face, and you realize why nobody makes alchemical or technological bombs in a high magic world. The more they try to 'time' the thing so it can explode, the more unstable it starts getting and the earlier it explodes. Soon, they become aware there's fire spirits around them all the time, attracted by their attempts, and things start exploding at random, or the different components start flying together by themselves, before you can mix them, for a boom!

"You've been feeding the fire spirits, and they aren't stupid. They're just making dinner!"
 

nevin

Explorer
if the pcs have unlimited use of black powder so do the bad guys and consequences are a bitch when you start blowing up the king's stuff
 


Aelryinth

Explorer
Unlimited anything is unbalancing. And if they simply have a lot of black powder, that has its downsides. They should be doubly afraid of Fireballs, for one thing.
Unlimited Holy Water exists as the River Oceanus, and the sea around the Seven Heavens. Tap into that with your own custom Decanter of Endless Water, and you can fire hose away armies of Fiends. :)
 

nevin

Explorer
unlimited black powder is there to be stolen and used by their enemies who will most likely frame the guys with unlimited black powder.
 



Black powder isn't dynamite. It's a pretty weak explosive, the amount needed to blow up anything of significant size isn't going to be man-portable.

I don't think that helps. Players tolerate unrealistic swordplay, archery, and explosives. I don't want to become an explosives expert to control black powder, and I don't need to be an explosives expert to control swordplay or archery.
 

Azzy

Newtype
Unlimited anything is going to be disruptive to a game. The answer to that is don't give players an unlimited access to things.

That said, I really wonder about people that have (non-thematic) issues with firearms an explosives in D&D. Have they played any other TTRPG that has an early modern, modern, near futuristic, or futuristic base line where firearms and explosives are readily available or expected? Have they played any such game where the players have or expected to have military-grade hardware? If they did, did they have a similar issue in those games?

As someone that has played/run several such games, I just don't understand this issue.
 

Aelryinth

Explorer
Unlimited anything is going to be disruptive to a game. The answer to that is don't give players an unlimited access to things.

That said, I really wonder about people that have (non-thematic) issues with firearms an explosives in D&D. Have they played any other TTRPG that has an early modern, modern, near futuristic, or futuristic base line where firearms and explosives are readily available or expected? Have they played any such game where the players have or expected to have military-grade hardware? If they did, did they have a similar issue in those games?

As someone that has played/run several such games, I just don't understand this issue.
Like anything, it's a question of quantity, the ability for enemies to deal with it, and availability of enemies.
Anytime you can directly convert money, which players have plenty of, cheaply into lots of sudden damage, like you can with gunpowder/explosives, that is going to flip your campaign on its ear. The old bag of holding/portable hole trick costs like 30k to pull off, but you can set up a 20d6 mass explosion for a fraction of that.

It's a LOT of firepower on the PC's side, and if the enemy can't do the same, they start steamrolling everything. So, you have to treat it just like magic, adjucating how much damage they can do with this stuff, how much it costs, and make it cost something similar to what magic does... and let the enemies do it, too.
 

It's a LOT of firepower on the PC's side, and if the enemy can't do the same, they start steamrolling everything.
That much gunpowder is bulky, PC's won't easily be able to haul it from place to place. Even if they can, it's still heavy to move around and stage. It's not like they can just easily chuck full powderkegs at an enemy to set them off.

Even if they did, there are all kinds of ways where that would be meaningless, like fire immunities and resistances.

It's got a lot more downsides than are obvious, if you think about the logistics of storing, handling, moving, and staging that much gunpowder. Gunpowder isn't a particularly powerful explosive, and has to be in great bulk to be truly destructive. We aren't talking anything on the scale of modern day C4 or Semtex, nothing like a modern hand or rifle grenade.
 

Aelryinth

Explorer
That much gunpowder is bulky, PC's won't easily be able to haul it from place to place. Even if they can, it's still heavy to move around and stage. It's not like they can just easily chuck full powderkegs at an enemy to set them off.

Even if they did, there are all kinds of ways where that would be meaningless, like fire immunities and resistances.

It's got a lot more downsides than are obvious, if you think about the logistics of storing, handling, moving, and staging that much gunpowder. Gunpowder isn't a particularly powerful explosive, and has to be in great bulk to be truly destructive. We aren't talking anything on the scale of modern day C4 or Semtex, nothing like a modern hand or rifle grenade.
Bags of Holding, Item spells, Portable Holes. It's not bulky enough to stop them from using it, at all. So, yes, they CAN chuck full powderkegs at an enemy. Telekinesis helps. So does Floating Disks, if they are clever. Heck, tie it to a Summoned creature and send it in.
Gunpowder does blast damage, not just fire damage. It will kill people with concussion, not just burn them.
We're not worried about knocking down buildings so much as doing a lot of damage to things... and a barrel of gunpowder going off in a red dragon's mouth is NOT going to be something it can shrug off easily.
Players can and will abuse gunpowder. Magic gives them the tools to do so.
Even worse... if fire resistance/immunity works against it, that means any character with Protection against Fire can walk into the middle of enemies not so immune and light off barrel after barrel with impunity, right?
 

MarkB

Legend
Like anything, it's a question of quantity, the ability for enemies to deal with it, and availability of enemies.
Anytime you can directly convert money, which players have plenty of, cheaply into lots of sudden damage, like you can with gunpowder/explosives, that is going to flip your campaign on its ear. The old bag of holding/portable hole trick costs like 30k to pull off, but you can set up a 20d6 mass explosion for a fraction of that.
20d6 is the equivalent of three fireballs. You can buy three scrolls of fireball for around 450gp.
 

Aelryinth

Explorer
20d6 is the equivalent of three fireballs. You can buy three scrolls of fireball for around 450gp.
There's a big difference of 3x 6d6 vs 1x20d6, and gunpowder is a blast, not fire damage. And how much is a barrel of gunpowder? It also doesn't require a mage to make... any mundane with enough Ranks in Alchemy can make one. You also don't need to be a Caster to set off Gunpowder, you can delay it, you can put it in place ahead of time, etc.
 

MarkB

Legend
There's a big difference of 3x 6d6 vs 1x20d6, and gunpowder is a blast, not fire damage. And how much is a barrel of gunpowder? It also doesn't require a mage to make... any mundane with enough Ranks in Alchemy can make one. You also don't need to be a Caster to set off Gunpowder, you can delay it, you can put it in place ahead of time, etc.
If multiple characters coordinate, they can fire off all three fireballs at once - and it would certainly require multiple characters coordinating to set up and detonate a bomb.

Or splurge an average cost of around 2000 gp for a Necklace of Fireballs that gives you a set of bead-sized bombs that you can easily throw simultaneously or rig up for a delayed explosion, all in a far tinier package than a bunch of casks of black powder.

Whether it's easier or cheaper to mass-produce gunpowder or make equivalent magic items is up to how you as the DM set up the campaign setting.
 

Aelryinth

Explorer
well, like I said, you're now involving three characters instead of one. One archer with fire arrows can set of 2-3 barrels a round from a distance. You can put a fuse on the barrels to delay them going off.
And you get one big explosion, instead of three smaller ones, and only need to have one person taking that action... while, say, you use one of those Fireball scrolls to set off the bomb in the first place, possibly.
And three scrolls means three Casters. What about a fighter-heavy party?
Are those NEcklaces of Missiles infinitely available? Because gunpowder is an alchemy check away.

Yeah, money is going to be a key issue... but the issues of gunpowder are very well known, and they just aren't replaced so easily.
 

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