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How to STOP Gunpowder?

Discussion in 'World Building' started by Bortasz, Sep 2, 2014.

  1. Bortasz

    Bortasz Troubadour

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    My problem is:
    In my world the person from are current world is transported to another with technology from 5 century A.D.

    How stop spread of gunpowder weapon? Even if my person don't know correct recipe the simple fact that he know basic: Sulfur, carbon, nitrate. and fact that this person have power have land and have wealth... Well it will be quick run for basic gunpowder weapons. Simple revolver, Shotgun, or artillery change the battles drastically. Any idea how stop this spread?
     
  2. Chilari

    Chilari Staff Moderator

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    Restricted access to materials, perhaps? If it's a different world from earth, the geology might be such that one or more of the ingredients is a rarity. Nitrate can be obtained from minerals and bat guano, but if you arrange geology such that the required minerals are rare in the part of the world the story takes place, and they've not figured out the bat guano thing yet (or don't have massive bat populations living in caves to build up large guano deposits in one place) then you can restrict access to potassium nitrate enough that production of gunpowder is prohibitively expensive, even for those with the knowledge and wealth to produce weaponry to use it.

    If the characters start out with modern weapons, then they might not have the means in a world with 5th century technology to refine the ingredients to sufficient quality to be used reliably in modern weapons. Early musketry had problems as a result of gunpowder. Sometimes it didn't burn properly and misfired. If it got wet it wouldn't burn at all and could get clogged in weapons. If your characters can't make stuff good enough for their own modern weapons, they'd be little better than useless.
     
  3. Caged Maiden

    Caged Maiden Staff Article Team

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    Or the weapons themselves. Are you able to manufacture the guns necessary to shoot the gunpowder? Maybe the technology doesn't exist to cast canons? I'm not entirely sure what your question is asking, but I'll put down a couple suggestions.

    If you mean to say that you have a group of characters transported back in time and they require gunpowder to use their modern firearms, I'd think their guns would be useless. Modern guns don't work with black powder, they use cartridges. If you're saying they have the means to create gunpowder in the relatively ancient world, and men who can craft guns, and your goal is to explain away why they DO NOT make guns and powder, thereby arming their friends with guns, I think that one is easy too. For example, I'm a totally modern person, pretty smart and interested in history. I have no idea how to build a flintlock pistol and I own one that functions. I've never bought powder or shot it, and those things are at my fingertips if I were to want to. but if I had to RECREATE the weapon? I'd be useless. I think most people other than real historical gun buffs would be.

    If your question is more along the lines of" My characters went back in time and have the scientific knowledge to recreate a functional black powder from the resources of the land, what can I do to make sure they don't get too big an advantage? Well then...you have to think about how to render their technology useless. Humidity would work. I hear that has ruined whole stores of powder. I'm sure you can find more by googling.

    The thing is, I can't really understand what exactly the problem is specifically you're trying to tackle. I think any route has plausible merit, but which would fit best for your story and world?
     
  4. wordwalker

    wordwalker Auror

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    One other thing that might limit gunpowder is a massive social or religious push to declare it forbidden. This is the kind of thing that's almost never works, especially since given enough people and time someone's sure to start using it again and then everyone wants in. I mention it mainly because it did happen in 16th century Japan.

    If you really want to use this, one suggestion: let the characters seize on --or manufacture-- an infamous Incident where one of the first attempts to use gunpowder blew its users up instead. That could give the ban all the "proof" it needs that these strange weapons are nothing but trouble.
     
  5. Chilari

    Chilari Staff Moderator

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    Sorry to go off-topic, but cool. Got a photo you could share?
     
  6. Bortasz

    Bortasz Troubadour

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    This is a problem.

    But this is not only about guns. Just watch battle in Helms deep. Gunpowder it self is big game changer. I want collect as many Ideas to stop spreading of gunpowder. Or if this possible to stop it from being created.

    Just knowing the basic mix of chemicals it is enough to go this way in search of advantage not only on battlefield but also in economics. Gunpowder will be great in mining and other fields.

    Sadly my Character have quite big scientific knowledge. I consider the simplest: He have no idea how it is created.

    My character have no modern weapons. But he poses magic. That I must finally put in some rules. It is so easy to just declare wizard did it.
     
  7. Gurkhal

    Gurkhal Auror

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    I second giving it a social dimension as well. If he starts to create a weapon that upsets the social order, odds are that someone who is invested in that order may do something about him.
     
  8. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    I know that black powder requires nitrate.

    But what in the world is nitrate? Like what do you say when trying to describe it to an ancient roman metallurgist? I couldn't begin to tell you what it looks like or how it has properties that make it identifiable or how you would go about mining it.

    I don't know that one person with passive knowledge of this stuff would really lead to anything. I have trouble believing they would reproduce any significant technology unless they were a specialist.
     
  9. Bortasz

    Bortasz Troubadour

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    This will not work. Simple look ad crossbow and Medieval time. Everybody forbid it. Than they allow it against pagans, than heretics. And in the end. Nobody was giving the F.
     
  10. Bortasz

    Bortasz Troubadour

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    And that is wonderful idea.
     
  11. Gurkhal

    Gurkhal Auror

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    You make a fair point but don't you answer your own question on which this thread was founded? If you can't stop progress either remove the gunpowder from the story or add it to it.
     
    Last edited: Sep 2, 2014
  12. Chilari

    Chilari Staff Moderator

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    You're looking at things from the perspective of hindsight though. Things have been banned reasonably successfully throughout history because of a social or religious reason. Maybe not in the long term, but unless your story is taking place across a span of two hundred years you should be able to write a social situation which restricts the ability to use gunpowder. A few early arrests, a few accidents resulting in deaths or serious injuries, and you've got a stigma against gunpowder that could easily last a generation with appropriate maintenance on the part of the authorities, before it falls apart. If you story takes place over, say, a few months or even a few years, you can manage to use social or religious reasons against it. These sorts of things change very slowly.
     
  13. Caged Maiden

    Caged Maiden Staff Article Team

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    [​IMG]
     
    Chilari likes this.
  14. Butterfly

    Butterfly Auror

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    Not really... You can also make potassium nitrate (also known as saltpeter) from wee and poo as well if you are so inclined...

    ;)
     
  15. Chilari

    Chilari Staff Moderator

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    But how would you discover that if you didn't know it in the first place?
     
  16. Butterfly

    Butterfly Auror

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    Serendipity... I used the internet... it kind of popped up when I was trying to find the name of that white stuff that forms inside limestone caves. I couldn't remember what it was called - (Calcium Carbonate) and the internet threw saltpeter or potassium nitrate out as a possibility.

    Without the internet, perhaps by observation. Saltpeter looks like white crystals when it is formed. I don't know what the required factors are to do that though.
     
    Last edited: Sep 2, 2014
  17. psychotick

    psychotick Auror

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    Hi,

    There's a couple of ways to slow the advance of gunpowder technology through a society. First the recipe is charcoal, sulphur and saltpeter (potassium nitrate). Charcoal can be made, sulphur found in large quantities in any volcanic region, which leaves only the saltpeter. Now traditionally this is found at the bottom of dung piles and on cave floors where it is gathered from bat guano. None of these things are very hard to find if you know where to look. But to make gunpowder more useful it was developed next into cordite. Cordite uses sulfuric acid and nitric acid in place of the sulphur and saltpeter. These require much more chemistry knowledge. And before that, if bats were a limited resource for some reason - predation?, finding enough saltpeter might be a limitation. However it's hard to see that these sorts of limitations would apply across an entire world.

    The other thing which will limit gunpowder technology is metallurgy. Any explosive in order to function needs to be contained, usually in the metal shell of a cartridge in this case. If the metallurgy is poor, and perhaps there isn't a lot of iron or copper around the gunpowder's effectiveness will be limited. Guns, cannon etc will explode in people's faces. It would take only a few such incidents before the general impression people had of gunpowder was that it was dangerous. At that point people would be less inclined to explore it's uses if the advantages it seemed to offer were minimal an the dangers great. On top of that the weapons would rust too quickly if the steel is of poor quality - and a rusty rifle is useless or dangerous.

    Also don't forget the technology / mass production needed to make gunpowder weaponry. Even to make a simple cannon you need a foundry of some sort. And rifles require triggers etc. There are actually quite a lot of advances needed to make a good rifle even before the invention of the cartridge - percussion caps, flintlocks etc.

    And don't forget the Chinese had gunpowder over a thousand years ago to build their rockets, but never produced a significant gun industry with that knowledge. They made some advances and did develop a range of gunpowder weapons, but it wasn't until centuries later (five roughly) when it reached the west, that rifles etc truly began to come into their own.

    I'd look at your limited growth of the use of gunpowder weapons because of slow growth in the advancement of a range of technologies, not the lack of gunpowder itself.

    Cheers, Greg.
     
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  18. Terry Greer

    Terry Greer Sage

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    if you're using somebody that knows how to make gunpowder and familiar with them - then you're asking for problems.

    Most people have no idea what gunpowder contains - even if they do live in the present day.

    However, even knowing what it contains, making it - getting the proportions right and the manufacturing of the ingredients to the right level of purity requires a lot of expertise. It could take him years to get it right.

    Then there's the problem of getting the metallurgy right for the guns and cannon - and the engineering needed to create guns themselves.

    Its not that easy - and a basic pub knowledge level of what's in gunpowder wouldn't get you very far- lots would have to come together for it to work. The chinese had gunpowder long before guns - its useful for fireworks and explosive bombs (which are a much more likely use than guns).

    Kirk made it look easy in the Arena episode of Star Trek - but it aint.
     
  19. Terry Greer

    Terry Greer Sage

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    Psychotick seems to have said exactly the same thing while I was writing my previous reply.

    :)

    I agree completely with him.
     
  20. Terry Greer

    Terry Greer Sage

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    BTW - nitrate was initially obtained from Saltpeter crystals found naturally in manure/latrine pits/piles.
     
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