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5E Never Give Them Unlimited Black Powder

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
I have to disagree with you there - not saying that I am "right" and you are "wrong", but if you look, thematically, Saruman was a representation of technology and destructive industrialization. It would be very appropriate that Saruman invented black powder and knew how to wield it well - so the bomb wasn't a barrel, but a strong metal container that amplified its power. The narrow tunnel also amplified the destructive power.
Sure, you can make that argument, but then you're open to actually looking at how black powder would work. That cauldron would have been a decent bomb, but not blow the wall sky high. The culvert would have channeled most of the blast out the sides, not upwards. Explosives and solid stone don't mix well, which is why mining, even with high explosives, is more about networking smaller blasts to fracture the rock face, not blow it out. As black powder, the scene presented doesn't make much sense. As magical boom powder, it does.
 

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Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
The one where making black powder requires an alchemy check, which I believe is the core rules in Pathfinder/3e. Not certain on 4/5e, but it seems it's part of the OP's world.
So, you assume it's called black powder. I don't recall that from 3e. I do recall smoke powder, which worked pretty differently from black powder. You're spinning, looking for word dodges and vague handwaves, and I don't understand why. You seem to be trying to make the case that the thing being talked about isn't actually real word-like black powder, but some magical thing, but are unwilling to say it's just magic and compare it to black powder. Pick a side, it's okay. I like magic boom powder, it's good stuff. I even like genre-logic black powder. But these things aren't the same as real black powder -- they're made up. At the point that you're making up magic boom powder and then complaining it breaks your game... the problem isn't the magic boom powder, it's how you made it work in the game. This isn't at all about black powder, or smoke powder, or the Flame of Orthanc, it's about the choices you're making in your game to represent whatever fiction you've concocted. The answer is yours, and your answer isn't really better than anyone else's.

If you want to talk about how black powder actually behaves so you can better ground your rules against that, awesome. But taking the name and coming up with something arbitrary and then demanding that others accept your choice as how game black powder works is just weird.
 

Ancalagon

Dusty Dragon
Sure, you can make that argument, but then you're open to actually looking at how black powder would work. That cauldron would have been a decent bomb, but not blow the wall sky high. The culvert would have channeled most of the blast out the sides, not upwards. Explosives and solid stone don't mix well, which is why mining, even with high explosives, is more about networking smaller blasts to fracture the rock face, not blow it out. As black powder, the scene presented doesn't make much sense. As magical boom powder, it does.

It could be a mixture of both - you know, mixing magic and technology can yield potent results...
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
It could be a mixture of both - you know, mixing magic and technology can yield potent results...
Right! But, that's firmly in the realm of fiction, so how it works doesn't at all have to be tied to reality or black powder or gun powder in the real world -- you've made it up already, so it works according to how you've made it up. A large part of the discussion here seems to be around using the fictionally defined substance from one person but arguing it's how it works in general.
 


MarkB

Legend
it's trivializing, fyi.
It matters when fight after fight becomes trivial, and things lose their challenge. You may not have encountered such an effect yet. Once it happens, it's a death knell to a campaign. So, he's trying to head it off before it does.
You'd get the same thing with a power build, super spell, too-powerful magic item, or the like. It breaks something, and say goodbye to your campaign.
If you're letting your players turn up to a fight, throw a single barrel at the enemy, and boom, the fight goes away, that's your own problem because black powder doesn't work that way.

if they're having to stockpile a large quantity of explosives, plan out how best to deploy them for maximum effect, use multiple skillsets across the whole party to actually set up their ambush, and then, if everything goes exactly right, the enemy goes away in one big boom, that didn't trivialise the encounter - that was the encounter.
 

Azzy

Newtype
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.

How many bags of holding did you let your players aquire? As a bag of holding has a capacity of 500 lbs. So a bag could hold up to 25 powder kegs in (with nothing else in it). It takes one action to remove an item from a bag. Then fire has to be set to it (kegs don't come with fuses or other means to cause them to combust as that's generally contrary to its function, so the PCs are going to have to rig something up before hand or open the keg, set the entire keg on fire, or something). Then there's positioning (throwing, dropping, using telekineses*—Tenser's is pretty useless for most cases) the keg to blow up the PC's enemies and not themselves. That's a lot of actions (and resouces, if the PCs are using spells like telekineses*) to weaponize a powder keg that does 7d6 fire damage in a 10 ft. radius. Even with a ton of planning and preperation and best-case scenarios where the PCs can get multiple powder kegs to explode in one go, it's still not efficient and it assumes that damage from multiple exploding kegs stack in an additive manner (which they may not).

And for making gunpowder, do the PCs actually have the proficiency to make it, the ingredients, tools, and time to make it in significant quantities?

*If the PCs are wasting a 5th-level spell to manuever powder kegs they're probably shooting themselves in the foot.

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.
laughs in Cyberpunk 2020

Why can't the enemy do the same thing (are they not creatures with at least average intelligence, capable of fine manipulation, have similar resources or trade or pilage those that do)? If they can't, don't the enemy at least have other, equally nasty, resources that it can bring to bear (magic, traps, special abilities, access to friendly, more powerful allies)? Doesn't the enemy have ways to counter, mitigate, or ignore gunpowder/explosives (like immunity or resistance to fire or nonmagical damage, ability to use fire on the party that's carrying gunpowder, etc)? In a game with magic and dragons (especially the fire-breathing sort) there should be more ways to deal with PCs with multiple powder kegs and a torch than in a game where the PCs have RPGs, C4, and assault rifles and you just have NPCs with RPGs, C4, and assault rifles.
 

Coroc

Hero
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.

Haha, well you know one of the funny things in D&D is: Unlike in RL for every problem there is a solution.

Black powder can get:

  • Wet (how boring)
  • Stolen (how boring 2)
  • Into the face of some one igniting it (Now it gets interesting)
  • Backfire (yessss, more of that!)
  • Have a slightly larger range than intended, especially when used in large quantities (Ok here you go!)
  • Have a much larger range than intended especially when used in large quantities (Including the position where the persons igniting it (Pyomaniac PCs)
felt save from the shockwave

PC: I ve got the poison DM: I ve got the remedy :p
 

Coroc

Hero
How many bags of holding did you let your players aquire? As a bag of holding has a capacity of 500 lbs. So a bag could hold up to 25 powder kegs in (with nothing else in it). It takes one action to remove an item from a bag. Then fire has to be set to it (kegs don't come with fuses or other means to cause them to combust as that's generally contrary to its function, so the PCs are going to have to rig something up before hand or open the keg, set the entire keg on fire, or something). Then there's positioning (throwing, dropping, using telekineses*—Tenser's is pretty useless for most cases) the keg to blow up the PC's enemies and not themselves. That's a lot of actions (and resouces, if the PCs are using spells like telekineses*) to weaponize a powder keg that does 7d6 fire damage in a 10 ft. radius. Even with a ton of planning and preperation and best-case scenarios where the PCs can get multiple powder kegs to explode in one go, it's still not efficient and it assumes that damage from multiple exploding kegs stack in an additive manner (which they may not).

And for making gunpowder, do the PCs actually have the proficiency to make it, the ingredients, tools, and time to make it in significant quantities?

*If the PCs are wasting a 5th-level spell to manuever powder kegs they're probably shooting themselves in the foot.


laughs in Cyberpunk 2020

Why can't the enemy do the same thing (are they not creatures with at least average intelligence, capable of fine manipulation, have similar resources or trade or pilage those that do)? If they can't, don't the enemy at least have other, equally nasty, resources that it can bring to bear (magic, traps, special abilities, access to friendly, more powerful allies)? Doesn't the enemy have ways to counter, mitigate, or ignore gunpowder/explosives (like immunity or resistance to fire or nonmagical damage, ability to use fire on the party that's carrying gunpowder, etc)? In a game with magic and dragons (especially the fire-breathing sort) there should be more ways to deal with PCs with multiple powder kegs and a torch than in a game where the PCs have RPGs, C4, and assault rifles and you just have NPCs with RPGs, C4, and assault rifles.

Oh i can see someone even got more creative than me : "..As a bag of holding has a capacity of 500 lbs..."

Yesss here is the excuse for the dimensional rift sending the PCs into that other dimension!
 

Coroc

Hero
I once had a game in which a character had the special ability to instantly end the existence of the universe. The game worked just fine. Keep going with the game. It will be fine.

Well as i posted in some other thread, i sometimes give that power to the PCs (Ending/apocalypting not the universe but the game world).
When they get soem high powered artefacts in their hand which could solve a major problem, but as well cause a much bigger one. I love these scenarios :p
 

Ancalagon

Dusty Dragon
if they're having to stockpile a large quantity of explosives, plan out how best to deploy them for maximum effect, use multiple skillsets across the whole party to actually set up their ambush, and then, if everything goes exactly right, the enemy goes away in one big boom, that didn't trivialise the encounter - that was the encounter.

Combat as war, not as a sport. Any somewhat intelligent being would want to have a crushing advantage in every fight.
 

nevin

Explorer
Well as i posted in some other thread, i sometimes give that power to the PCs (Ending/apocalypting not the universe but the game world).
When they get soem high powered artefacts in their hand which could solve a major problem, but as well cause a much bigger one. I love these scenarios :p
My current character is trying to fix one of those scenarious he caused. Good times::eek:
 

Aelryinth

Explorer
How many bags of holding did you let your players aquire? As a bag of holding has a capacity of 500 lbs. So a bag could hold up to 25 powder kegs in (with nothing else in it). It takes one action to remove an item from a bag. Then fire has to be set to it (kegs don't come with fuses or other means to cause them to combust as that's generally contrary to its function, so the PCs are going to have to rig something up before hand or open the keg, set the entire keg on fire, or something). Then there's positioning (throwing, dropping, using telekineses*—Tenser's is pretty useless for most cases) the keg to blow up the PC's enemies and not themselves. That's a lot of actions (and resouces, if the PCs are using spells like telekineses*) to weaponize a powder keg that does 7d6 fire damage in a 10 ft. radius. Even with a ton of planning and preperation and best-case scenarios where the PCs can get multiple powder kegs to explode in one go, it's still not efficient and it assumes that damage from multiple exploding kegs stack in an additive manner (which they may not).

And for making gunpowder, do the PCs actually have the proficiency to make it, the ingredients, tools, and time to make it in significant quantities?

*If the PCs are wasting a 5th-level spell to manuever powder kegs they're probably shooting themselves in the foot.


laughs in Cyberpunk 2020

Why can't the enemy do the same thing (are they not creatures with at least average intelligence, capable of fine manipulation, have similar resources or trade or pilage those that do)? If they can't, don't the enemy at least have other, equally nasty, resources that it can bring to bear (magic, traps, special abilities, access to friendly, more powerful allies)? Doesn't the enemy have ways to counter, mitigate, or ignore gunpowder/explosives (like immunity or resistance to fire or nonmagical damage, ability to use fire on the party that's carrying gunpowder, etc)? In a game with magic and dragons (especially the fire-breathing sort) there should be more ways to deal with PCs with multiple powder kegs and a torch than in a game where the PCs have RPGs, C4, and assault rifles and you just have NPCs with RPGs, C4, and assault rifles.
They can't do the same thing because a) a huge portion of your foes are not intelligent, they are literally monsters...
b) a huge portion of your foes don't have access to alchemy labs...
c) a huge portion of your foes don't have the alchemy skill...
d) they may or may not have the money to acquire the gunpowder...
e) if they don't know how to deal with gunpowder, and a lot of them won't, the PC's certainly do, so all those 'faults' of the gunpowder are stuff they know they can use against the enemy...
f) the power in gunpowder isn't how you can throw six kegs at an enemy, really. It's about how you can have the kegs in place to drop down on or blow apart enemies...
g) spending one fifth level spell to take out an entire encounter is a WONDERFUL use of a fifth level spell, not a waste of it. You think casting cone of cold or summon monster V is better?...

This is not like cyberpunk, where you are basically fighting clones of yourselves. D&D is full of monsters and beings that have no business with gunpowder/blackpowder/smoke powder/whatever Ovinomancer wants to call it. They are not the same games!

If your D&D is all PC against NPC, sure, gunpowder potentially goes both ways. What about barbaric orcs and goblins, with no alchemy skills or labs? What about dragons? Giants? Hydras? the vast majority of undead? Do fiends ever bother with it? What about magical beasts, plants, most monstrous humanoids, aberrations, oozes? Are they all suddenly going to be equipped with gunpowder kegs, too?

Toss three kegs at a treant, it's dead, never gets to learn how to counteract the kegs, how's it going to learn to do so? Same goes for the majority of monsters.

It's not the same game as Cyberpunk whatsoever. While some NPC's are a significant fraction of what you fight, they aren't ALL your enemies.

As for the production time, there are tools and stuff for making alchemical stuff faster, and you can just have multiple alchemists/PC's working on the stuff during downtime. It's just a skill check, nothing else, and production can be accelerated or scaled up by hiring a few more alchemists happy for the steady job.
 

nevin

Explorer
Haha, well you know one of the funny things in D&D is: Unlike in RL for every problem there is a solution.

Black powder can get:

  • Wet (how boring)
  • Stolen (how boring 2)
  • Into the face of some one igniting it (Now it gets interesting)
  • Backfire (yessss, more of that!)
  • Have a slightly larger range than intended, especially when used in large quantities (Ok here you go!)
  • Have a much larger range than intended especially when used in large quantities (Including the position where the persons igniting it (Pyomaniac PCs)
felt save from the shockwave

PC: I ve got the poison DM: I ve got the remedy :p
What do you mean unlike in real life? As DM you are the guy functioning at a really high level. US steals stuff from bad guys all the time to get it out of thier hands. Blows stuff up all the time. If you go read up on dumb criminals blowing up thier own stockpile happens in real life. Anyone not an expert on gunpowder could easilty screw it up and mess up range or payload. when I was in the Army advanced trainees who should have known better messed up and lobbed a practice round into a parking lot at the mall at Ft Sill. These guys were almost fully trained professionals. During WWI we stored all our AMmo in small tightly organized bases till someone dropped a 500 pound bomb while loading a battle ship and a destroyer. both ships, the base and the town got blown up. Now we store stuff differently.

I love consequences. The higher level the game the bigger the consequences of their actions.
 

Aelryinth

Explorer
Haha, well you know one of the funny things in D&D is: Unlike in RL for every problem there is a solution.

Black powder can get:

  • Wet (how boring)
  • Stolen (how boring 2)
  • Into the face of some one igniting it (Now it gets interesting)
  • Backfire (yessss, more of that!)
  • Have a slightly larger range than intended, especially when used in large quantities (Ok here you go!)
  • Have a much larger range than intended especially when used in large quantities (Including the position where the persons igniting it (Pyomaniac PCs)
felt save from the shockwave

PC: I ve got the poison DM: I ve got the remedy :p
And you may or may not have experienced this, but from the player's side, this comes across as DM Fiat asshattery.
"Oh, your gunpowder is missing! It got stolen!"
"Oh, it's raining today, your gunpowder is wet and can't be used!"
"Oh, your kegs all swelled up and sprang leaks, and its unusable."
"Oh, you didn't go back far enough, and you're taking incidental damage!" -Note, this can backfire if the PC's realize you just expanded the blast radius of the explosion, and how they can do it.

---You may think that's clever drawbacks, but that's not how the PC's are going to take it. It's going to come across as arbitrary nerfing.
"Oh, your magic sword is missing! it got stolen!"
"Oh, it's raining! you can't use your bow!"
"Oh, your armor is wet and the straps are loose, it won't stay attached!"
"Oh, your sword hilt is slippery, and flies from your hand!"
"Oh, that fireball has a bigger blast radius then you expected, and you're caught in the area of effect!"

---YOur 'clever tricks' are coming across exactly the same way as the other 'believable stuff' I just posted.
 

Aelryinth

Explorer
What do you mean unlike in real life? As DM you are the guy functioning at a really high level. US steals stuff from bad guys all the time to get it out of their hands. Blows stuff up all the time. If you go read up on dumb criminals blowing up their own stockpile happens in real life. Anyone not an expert on gunpowder could easily screw it up and mess up range or payload. when I was in the Army advanced trainees who should have known better messed up and lobbed a practice round into a parking lot at the mall at Ft Sill. These guys were almost fully trained professionals. During WWI we stored all our Ammo in small tightly organized bases till someone dropped a 500 pound bomb while loading a battle ship and a destroyer. both ships, the base and the town got blown up. Now we store stuff differently.

I love consequences. The higher level the game the bigger the consequences of their actions.
Be nice. The PC's won't have that big an arsenal of stuff, and stupid people messing with explosives are not the same as decent level PC's with skill ranks in the stuff taking precautions. The PC's ARE the experts. Such explosions are notable for their rarity and surprising effect when they do.
As for hitting an ammo magazine... that was a disaster for ships and forts for hundreds of years. PC enemies generally don't have bunker busters, and they won't have that quantity of goods. You may as well tell them they cast a spell that overloads the wizard's staff and blows it up in his hands. It's literally that arbitrary.
 

nevin

Explorer
They can't do the same thing because a) a huge portion of your foes are not intelligent, they are literally monsters...
b) a huge portion of your foes don't have access to alchemy labs...
c) a huge portion of your foes don't have the alchemy skill...
d) they may or may not have the money to acquire the gunpowder...
e) if they don't know how to deal with gunpowder, and a lot of them won't, the PC's certainly do, so all those 'faults' of the gunpowder are stuff they know they can use against the enemy...
f) the power in gunpowder isn't how you can throw six kegs at an enemy, really. It's about how you can have the kegs in place to drop down on or blow apart enemies...
g) spending one fifth level spell to take out an entire encounter is a WONDERFUL use of a fifth level spell, not a waste of it. You think casting cone of cold or summon monster V is better?...

This is not like cyberpunk, where you are basically fighting clones of yourselves. D&D is full of monsters and beings that have no business with gunpowder/blackpowder/smoke powder/whatever Ovinomancer wants to call it. They are not the same games!

If your D&D is all PC against NPC, sure, gunpowder potentially goes both ways. What about barbaric orcs and goblins, with no alchemy skills or labs? What about dragons? Giants? Hydras? the vast majority of undead? Do fiends ever bother with it? What about magical beasts, plants, most monstrous humanoids, aberrations, oozes? Are they all suddenly going to be equipped with gunpowder kegs, too?

Toss three kegs at a treant, it's dead, never gets to learn how to counteract the kegs, how's it going to learn to do so? Same goes for the majority of monsters.

It's not the same game as Cyberpunk whatsoever. While some NPC's are a significant fraction of what you fight, they aren't ALL your enemies.

As for the production time, there are tools and stuff for making alchemical stuff faster, and you can just have multiple alchemists/PC's working on the stuff during downtime. It's just a skill check, nothing else, and production can be accelerated or scaled up by hiring a few more alchemists happy for the steady job.
why can't Barbarians or Orcs have alchemy skill? If your anal about rules then a half Orc alchemist who lives with the orc tribe. Orcs could capture an Alchemist and use him. One Treant would get a chance to bat away the kegs. Two Unless the players have high skill in siege engines how are the acurateally throwing the barrells? and What are the Elve's and other Treeant's going to do when you start blowing up Treants? Forests usually have lots of Treants. they are slow to act but a month later they may come out of the forest when the PC's arent there and rip thier city completely apart.

If your fiends aren't smartly using every single thing they can against the players you arent' playing them right. Or even without alchemy all the enemy needs to know is fire burns gunpowder. Shaman summons fire elemental during battle . Boom. also mideivel black powder is not like the modern stuff. It should just fail to burn periodically. If it get wet you can't dry it out and then use it. A lot of undead are intelligent and formerly living . In a world with gun powder some magical beasts will know what it is. And seriously how do you throw a keg of gunpowder without it breaking and scattering the Gunpowder all over the ground just the act of picking it up and hurling it might crack it enough that the powder would start to come out and then no big boom? two an exploding keg of gunpowder wouldn't have a big blast radius and flying pieces of wood would suck but not be grape shot or cannonballs.


And as far as alchmist and production that's when enemies send assasains or teleporting mages to capture them and start thier own production. Or even more simply Some smart guy watches party makes his own factory if its that easy maybe a dozen factories and starts selling gunpowder in bulk to everyone one and the players now have to deal with Orc's, Goblins and other PC's that can buy or steal gunpowder and use it against them. That's how technology advances one guy gets a temporary advantage and then someone else runs with it.

My favorite idea off the cuff though would be to send in water elementals, or if the game is high enough level some elven druid may just say enough and call a hurricane in on thier factory, and city.
 

nevin

Explorer
Be nice. The PC's won't have that big an arsenal of stuff, and stupid people messing with explosives are not the same as decent level PC's with skill ranks in the stuff taking precautions. The PC's ARE the experts. Such explosions are notable for their rarity and surprising effect when they do.
As for hitting an ammo magazine... that was a disaster for ships and forts for hundreds of years. PC enemies generally don't have bunker busters, and they won't have that quantity of goods. You may as well tell them they cast a spell that overloads the wizard's staff and blows it up in his hands. It's literally that arbitrary.
i meant the PC's are all your PC's alchemists? And seriously I've handled ordinance. the more you handle it the more you lose fear of it and the more likely you'll do something stupid. Trained soldiers blow off thier hands, blow up tanks, kill thier own soldiers because one tiny mistake and BOOM. and that's Modern trained soldiers. We are talking PC's in a midevil world. I Doubt they are taking modern protections. One spark from a sword hitting armor or a rock and BOOOM black powder in bulk sucks...

Who needs a bunker buster when you can summon an extra planer mephit cast invisibility on him and send him in. And that's the low level attack. Give me 10 or 12th level mage and if I want a boom I'm getting a boom.
 

nevin

Explorer
Or as I sit here and think about it. Second time you attack the Orcs they light the entire forest around the party on fire. GAME OVER
 


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