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5E Never Give Them Unlimited Black Powder

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?
By the time a party is rich enough to be buying those kind of magic items, or have a wizard casting Item spells, they'll have access to all kinds of other magic items, spells, and such that gunpowder seems like a very inefficient use of resources. Wasting item spells, Tenser's Floating Disc, that could be used on attack spells is just taking time and effort to use gunpowder like it was a fireball spell.

You're presenting an idealized scenario that ignores the various tactical circumstances where that just wouldn't work.
 

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Ancalagon

Dusty Dragon
A barrel of gunpowder will not do 20d6 points of damage.

The problem is not that it's enough gunpowder. It's the barrel. Black powder is a low explosive. if you put a pile of it on the ground and ignite and it will... burn. What makes it go boom is the increased pressure which keeps increasing until the container explodes. So the barrel is what explodes, and it will burst fairly quickly. I would guestimate in the 4d6 range?
 

Aelryinth

Explorer
By the time a party is rich enough to be buying those kind of magic items, or have a wizard casting Item spells, they'll have access to all kinds of other magic items, spells, and such that gunpowder seems like a very inefficient use of resources. Wasting item spells, Tenser's Floating Disc, that could be used on attack spells is just taking time and effort to use gunpowder like it was a fireball spell.

You're presenting an idealized scenario that ignores the various tactical circumstances where that just wouldn't work.
No, I'm giving options for the non-magical. Floating Disk is a level 1 spell. Getting 20d6 damage out of it is OPTIMIZING the spell slot, and making that damage available to a LEVEL ONE character.
Item spells are cast days ahead of time, OUT of combat. Build up an inventory, swap out spells for combat, go into the battle with multiple kegs of gunpowder you pull out of nowhere.
Gunpowder isn't ever inefficient unless it is priced horribly, because the PC's can MAKE IT on demand. Very crucial. It's not whether magical item x is available for sale, it's "I have Alchemy, and I'm going to make blackpowder." And generally you can make it for a THIRD of the cost you'd buy it at...
 

Aelryinth

Explorer
A barrel of gunpowder will not do 20d6 points of damage.

The problem is not that it's enough gunpowder. It's the barrel. Black powder is a low explosive. if you put a pile of it on the ground and ignite and it will... burn. What makes it go boom is the increased pressure which keeps increasing until the container explodes. So the barrel is what explodes, and it will burst fairly quickly. I would guestimate in the 4d6 range?
I think the general view of blackpowder in a magical world is the Bug Bunny version, which is a higher grade and would indeed blow up rather nicely.
 

Ancalagon

Dusty Dragon
I think the general view of blackpowder in a magical world is the Bug Bunny version, which is a higher grade and would indeed blow up rather nicely.

.... what...? So we can't have black powder in a fantasy game because it's too powerful and the PCs will abuse it, but that's because the black powder in a fantasy game is magical black powder that is much more useful and dangerous that real black powder?!?

Either I really am not understanding this discussion, or this is completely absurd.
 


Aelryinth

Explorer
Not that I've ever heard of. Citation needed.
Sure. Look at every post and module talking about using/blowing up gunpowder, every movie you've ever seen using it, and how much damage it does/is assigned to do.

Then look at every chemist saying 'in reality, gunpowder kegs don't do that!'

Then consider whether D&D pays attention to the first group of folks, or the second.

That's my citation.

As I'm pretty much with the first group, I explain it to the second group as 'better refined powder, possibly with alchemical help' to ease their consciences about defying the laws of chemistry.

IMC, gunpowder is just hugely volatile, and trying to stockpile it just makes a big explosion as hungry fire spirits set it alight. Gotta be VERy careful with the stuff, even in small amounts.
 

Aelryinth

Explorer
.... what...? So we can't have black powder in a fantasy game because it's too powerful and the PCs will abuse it, but that's because the black powder in a fantasy game is magical black powder that is much more useful and dangerous that real black powder?!?

Either I really am not understanding this discussion, or this is completely absurd.
They are making a false argument.
People have already stated what black powder does. The fact that it doesn't do that 'in reality' means nothing. What it does in the game tends to be what it does in movies, and what it does in fiction is blow up big and loud.

So the problems are: cost for damage; ease of buying; ease of making; ease of use by low level people; flexibility of use.
Explosives are just really useful, and really cheap ones really useful. That's the gist of it.
Adding in 'can't do this because in reality chemistry' is a possibility, and you can only hope they'll buy it.
 

MarkB

Legend
Sure. Look at every post and module talking about using/blowing up gunpowder, every movie you've ever seen using it, and how much damage it does/is assigned to do.

Then look at every chemist saying 'in reality, gunpowder kegs don't do that!'

Then consider whether D&D pays attention to the first group of folks, or the second.

That's my citation.
Most movie explosions involving a barrel of gunpowder I would estimate to be roughly equivalent to a fireball, except with more blast and less fire. Maybe switch half the damage dice to Thunder damage, and let it do double damage to structures.

As I'm pretty much with the first group, I explain it to the second group as 'better refined powder, possibly with alchemical help' to ease their consciences about defying the laws of chemistry.

IMC, gunpowder is just hugely volatile, and trying to stockpile it just makes a big explosion as hungry fire spirits set it alight. Gotta be VERy careful with the stuff, even in small amounts.
So basically, you've made this problem for yourself in your campaign, and now you're complaining about how problematic this problem that you've invented is.
 

Aelryinth

Explorer
Most movie explosions involving a barrel of gunpowder I would estimate to be roughly equivalent to a fireball, except with more blast and less fire. Maybe switch half the damage dice to Thunder damage, and let it do double damage to structures.


So basically, you've made this problem for yourself in your campaign, and now you're complaining about how problematic this problem that you've invented is.
Um, no. What I did was explain why there is very, very little use of gunpowder and no gunpowder weapons IMC, and WHY they are not easily available. I headed the problem off before it started... it's part of campaign design, with a reason for it, instead of just blank fiat.

This puts the focus of attention back on magic, where its easier to balance. Allowing gunpowder opens up a broad can of techno-worms that 'realistically' would change the campaign world. I just nipped 'em off and didn't go down the road at all, staying to a more traditional campaign, is all.

I already noted earlier that the blast from a keg going off is more dangerous then the fire, especially if you pack it with nails and stuff.
 

A barrel of gunpowder will not do 20d6 points of damage.

The problem is not that it's enough gunpowder. It's the barrel. Black powder is a low explosive. if you put a pile of it on the ground and ignite and it will... burn. What makes it go boom is the increased pressure which keeps increasing until the container explodes. So the barrel is what explodes, and it will burst fairly quickly. I would guestimate in the 4d6 range?

Being a low explosive matters a lot less than you think. For example, think how easily a cannonball or musketball is rammed into a gun barrel. There isn't a huge amount of resistance there, but it creates a tremendous amount of destruction without needing high explosives to do it.

There's many examples of catastrophic gunpowder explosions in history, too.

There was a magazine explosion at the Siege of Almeida.

When the French bombardment opened on August 26 at 6 AM, several quarters of the town were quickly set on fire, and the defending guns of the nearest three batteries overwhelmed. However, the defences held. The governor was confident in withstanding the assault, until a shell made a freak hit. The great magazine in the castle had been used through the day to supply the defenders, and at some point a leaky powder keg had left a trail of powder leading up to the courtyard. At around 7 PM, one French shell landed in the courtyard, igniting a gunpowder trail that led through the still open door, and set off a chain reaction into the magazine. The ensuing explosion killed 600 defenders and wounded 300 more. The castle that housed the gunpowder was razed and sections of the defenses were damaged, leaving a crater still visible today.


It's very unlikely that gunpowder of this era was stored in anything other than wooden barrels or kegs.

At the Battle of Torrington in 1646, an explosion of gunpowder explicitly recorded as being within barrels occurred:

The fighting at the barricades lasted two hours at push of pike. At last the Cornish infantry gave way and retreated into the town, where bitter fighting continued. A stray spark ignited the Royalist magazine in Torrington church, where eighty barrels of gunpowder were stored. The explosion destroyed the church, killed all the prisoners held there and narrowly missed killing Fairfax.


See also:

Destruction of the Parthenon, 1687. Yes, that Parthenon. It was much more intact until stored gunpowder within it exploded and "...three of the sanctuary’s four walls nearly collapsed and three-fifths of the sculptures from the frieze fell. Nothing of the roof apparently remained in place. Six columns from the south side fell, eight from the north, as well as whatever remained from eastern porch, except for one column. The columns brought down with them the enormous marble architraves, triglyphs and metopes."

Indeed, virtually all of the largest artificial non-nuclear explosions prior to WWI were caused by explosions of gunpowder, many of them resulting in catastrophic damage and loss of life. All of these would have been a low explosive gunpowder of one flavor or another, almost certainly stored in wooden barrels, casks, or kegs.

There have even been theoretical reproductions of the explosion that would of resulted from the Gunpowder Plot in 1605:


Point being that it's really not difficult to make a extraordinarily powerful explosion with gunpowder stored in barrels.
 

MarkB

Legend
There was a magazine explosion at the Siege of Almeida.

When the French bombardment opened on August 26 at 6 AM, several quarters of the town were quickly set on fire, and the defending guns of the nearest three batteries overwhelmed. However, the defences held. The governor was confident in withstanding the assault, until a shell made a freak hit. The great magazine in the castle had been used through the day to supply the defenders, and at some point a leaky powder keg had left a trail of powder leading up to the courtyard. At around 7 PM, one French shell landed in the courtyard, igniting a gunpowder trail that led through the still open door, and set off a chain reaction into the magazine. The ensuing explosion killed 600 defenders and wounded 300 more. The castle that housed the gunpowder was razed and sections of the defenses were damaged, leaving a crater still visible today.


It's very unlikely that gunpowder of this era was stored in anything other than wooden barrels or kegs.
But all of those barrels and kegs would have been stored inside a relatively small stone-walled chamber, and that would then have become the pressure vessel for the explosion. The entire chamber would have fragmented and showered the area with masonry shrapnel, and if any part of it was a supporting wall for the rest of the fortification, the secondary structural damage could have been extreme.

The same number of kegs and barrels out in an open field wouldn't cause nearly as great an explosion - but would also be much easier to be hit by a stray shot.
 




Aelryinth

Explorer
But all of those barrels and kegs would have been stored inside a relatively small stone-walled chamber, and that would then have become the pressure vessel for the explosion. The entire chamber would have fragmented and showered the area with masonry shrapnel, and if any part of it was a supporting wall for the rest of the fortification, the secondary structural damage could have been extreme.

The same number of kegs and barrels out in an open field wouldn't cause nearly as great an explosion - but would also be much easier to be hit by a stray shot.
Dude, you're talking about pressure vehicles and explosion dispersion in a world where if you stand one inch outside a fireball you take no damage whatsoever, but full damage if you ARE inside that one inch, and the second after the fireball is gone, ambient temperature is back to normal. Unless something got lit on fire, it's cool to the touch!
:p
 

MarkB

Legend
For shame! It obviously collapsed under its own weight from a small pop. Stop bringing movie physics into my gaming fantasy!

On a side note, I think he rolled 20d6 and did at least 10 points of structural damage.
Yeah, but he also used several specially-designed explosive devices packed into an enclosed space. Not just a barrel.

Dude, you're talking about pressure vehicles and explosion dispersion in a world where if you stand one inch outside a fireball you take no damage whatsoever, but full damage if you ARE inside that one inch, and the second after the fireball is gone, ambient temperature is back to normal. Unless something got lit on fire, it's cool to the touch!
:p
No, in that response I was talking about an actual real-world example.
 


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).
Well yes. But you're not practically going to have unlimited black powder either. There's only so much that can be carried around.

And woe betide any party that has a wagon full of gunpowder they're carrying with them. One fireball and...
 

Aelryinth

Explorer
Well yes. But you're not practically going to have unlimited black powder either. There's only so much that can be carried around.

And woe betide any party that has a wagon full of gunpowder they're carrying with them. One fireball and...
It doesn't have to be unlimited, you know. It has to be enough to destroy their enemies. There is a HUGE difference there, especially with storage/shrinking magic.
 

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