Over the years I have run several RPGs set in one variant or another of fantasy western background. The most vexing question I have found is whether to include gunpowder and the associated weapons in the mix.
The first game I ran when 15 (the notes of which are being recycled into Drakesdoom) featured blackpowder revolvers and other relatively high tech weapons. When I ran a similar game at University one of the character (the ‘Fish with no name’) was a gunfighter. When I played around with western feeling fantasy in the Cutthroat Creeks mosaic novel background (cutthroatcreeks.wordpress.com) I kept gunpowder out of the mix and in the first games of Drakesdoom gunpowder didn’t feature.
Gunpowder changes the feel of and background – guns are lethal and easy to learn to use, they are a great leveller in a society. Suddenly the lorded armoured knight (or powerful magic user) is not quite as invulnerable as they were before. With discipline and focus peasants can defend themselves. Even the physically weak have a better chance of defending themselves.
Bringing Ancienia, from those old notes by the teenage me, into the Drakesdoom has brought these matters to a head. In that background the Ancienian ‘Europeans’ had gunpowder – given their religion (Adrianism) limited their access to magic it made sense it explained how they were able to develop colonies in the face of the indigenous magic using societies.
I think the same reasons apply here. I also think that the democratic effect firearms have on society is another argument for their inclusion in Drakesdoom. Characters from the Black Alps or other territories on Drakesdoom’s continent of Discoverie will not have access to them so events in games podcasted so far, still stand.
However, they are going to be expensive if you want to buy them in the Midmark. The migrants who’ve brought them with them are not likely to let them go. Gunsmiths are in short supply, many tied to a particular immigrant village they are a member of, and even a slow firing matchlock will be pricey. They will be single shot (the occasional double barrelled weapons being super-expensive) and inaccurate (rifling also being super-expensive.) As an individual weapon they will be clumsy being truly effective when used by a community’s defenders in volley fire.
And in the end the idea of a character trying to fast draw a single shot pistol in a stand-off with an axe throwing Viking, bow drawing elf or magician in mid spell cast is too cool to lose.
Comments & thoughts welcome.