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How to STOP Gunpowder?

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

  1. wordwalker

    wordwalker Auror

    Here's one different approach, besides the problems of manufacturing and society: if you want a more heavy-handed answer, the world could have a microrganism that eats one of the components of gunpowder, leaving what's left useless or even unstable. This might be a good plot twist if your hero's an engineer who's sure he can get everything right-- but you want something totally new to him to make it Just Not Work until he figures that out too. Or if some genius in the world's past (or right now) created this bug to prevent guns.

    Another answer is magic. The more wizards are able to develop specialized spells, the harder they'd work at making spells to disrupt aim, then something to ruin gunpowder, and ultimately to detonate it. Guns might turn out to be more dangerous to their user-- but only when a wizard's around, and not if you use cannons to batter the wizard's town from outside his range. :)
    Terry Greer, Bortasz and Chilari like this.
  2. Chilari

    Chilari Staff Moderator

    Ooh wordwalker, I love that micro-organism idea.
  3. Bortasz

    Bortasz Troubadour

    **** Yea!!!! This is AMAZING. I will use this. That Micro-organism will completely eliminate gunpowder from my world allowing to have a Steam Engine AND Medieval Knight xD SteamPunk Forever!!! I'm loving it!!!
  4. Terry Greer

    Terry Greer Sage

    A very nice idea - saltpeter is energy rich - so would be perfect . It would be hard to get rid of sulphur and charcoal as there are so many other uses for them - and not having saltpeter would be a perfect block.
  5. Rain (set it in england) or develop water magic. Simple powder weapons, muskets, cannons, early rifles, will not fire in wet conditions.
  6. arboriad

    arboriad Scribe

    I've not yet been able to pinpoint why, but I believe the Chinese reserved gunpowder for fireworks for a long time. Why it took Western innovation to adapt it for war is another question. Perhaps culturally they kept a kabosh on invention. That's another thought; the development of technology is usually connected to the freedom allowed by your religious/cultural system, and how it views the world. Perhaps, worldwide, explosive power is the power of gods, since that's how the world was made.

    If they believe in a god who could change the world at a whim, there's less confidence in studying a potentially quantum worldview. Hence scientific stagnation in many of our historical cultures. I believe China once said 'China has no tech, because she has no need of tech.' (paraphrase) That was until they were forced into the 20th century.

    Stopping something in the mind can be more powerful than once it's in your hand.
  7. S J Lee

    S J Lee Sage

    My advice is... (and it is only one person's opinion...)

    Be VERY careful about the microorganism - it won't convince most readers.... yes, maybe these readers are not the ones you want, but are you reducing your readership before you've even got started?
    1 - some expert reader with biochem knowledge could easily point out it would also eat something else in a way that would kill all life on earth... how much research do you want to put into this? And is this past actually THE 5th century earth? There was no such limit on gunpowder? ARe you asking readers to swallow TWO big plot devices - microrganism PLUS time travel?
    2 - even WORSE - how would the thwarted gunpowder maker ever find out that the microorganism existed? What lab equipment could he possibly use, stuck in the 5th century? Are you going to have an omniscient narrator tell us? Is it now THREE big things the reader has to swallow? Does that gel with your chosen POV? Are you going to amend your whole POV system to fit in this one thread?
    3 - look at how other writers have dealt with it... won't you be compared to them?
    Mark Twain - a Connecticut Yankee - yes of course he made modern weapons, and slaughtered Arthur's knights
    R Zelasny - the Amber books - the two rebel princes wanted to conquer their home "plane", where the laws of physics were slightly different or something, and gunpowder wouldn't burn in Avalon... but of course the hero tried again after an epic failure with a swords-and-spears army, and found a substitute, and the result was "the guns of Avalon"
    Won't you be compared to those writers, and criticized?

    You've actually touched on one of the reasons that many readers don't like "enter Narnia" style stories.... yes, Harry Potter got away with it I suppose, though I never understood why A) wizards didn't EVER try to conquer the world, B) evil wizards didn't use gangs of goons with AK 47s to top up their firepower at crucical moments.... the whole idea that they didn't seemed so fake, but who am I to criticise a success? It probably helped that HP is for juveniles, no need to worry about too many awkward Qs... if your book is aimed for more skeptical adults, watch out...

    I agree that Tokugawa Japan was a bad example.... this was about disarming the whole of society AFTER a long civil war had ended in a physically isolated land

    I think that if you MUST use a "Connecticut Yankee" model, then simply have the hero try and try hard to make gunpowder as a quick and sensible way to gain power, but he just cannot get it right.... OR he has some limited success but his primitive arquebus only gets one shot off, and he doesn't have the time to make 100s and get men trained to use them.....

    Real gunpowder weapons took 100s of years to replace melee weapons and crossbows. So I think you should simply give him a time limit. He doesn't have decades to perfect his weapons, he has to rescue the princess next week. Simple...? And THIS way he has the inner anguish that when his friends are killed, he COULD have saved them if he'd paid more attention in school/ had just a little bit more time to get ready...? would this be better, more emotional, more convincing, needing less "suspension of disbelief?"
    Last edited: Jul 3, 2020
  8. Aldarion

    Aldarion Sage

    Actually, no. From what I have learned, it seems that gunpowder weapons (as opposed to rocketry etc.) actually require a specific form of gunpowder (corned gunpowder?). As long as that is not available, you can't have cannons. Chinese discovered gunpowder in 142 AD, yet firearms took until 12th century at earliest to develop.

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