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  1. #1
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    BR Ren Tech--Gunpowder, Cannon, Ships

    Inspired by a new PBEM (Royal Bloodlines) that Nicholas Harrison and his brother are hosting, I thought I'd brush up on some of my history. According to the Harrisons, this PBEM would like to more accurately (though not necessarily completely accurately) reflect the technology of the Renaissance period that Anuire, at least (along with, I think, the Brechts, for the humans), is said to possess in BR source material.

    Now, to keep much of the traditional sword and sorcery flavor of BR, I don't think you can let firearms and cannon and steam fully develop, because they became the primary form of warfare, supplanting melee combat and reducing stone castles. So it seems that the transitional state with a balance between the two seems an ideal scenario--and I think that's what the Harrisons are going for.

    Anyway, what I really wanted to discuss is some of those points of history and how people think they might be reflected in BR. I do not mean this as a means to try to dictate how the PBEM should be ruled; this is just an intellectual endeavor on the BR forums inspired by the PBEM's premises.

    So a few things. Here are some quick internet references.
    A book with good quick summaries of turning points in warfare; the default page should be about cannons, followed by ship tech:
    http://books.google.com/books?id=TM9...esult&resnum=6

    A brief summary of some impacts of cannon on military fortifications in Europe, from its introduction onward:
    http://medievalhistory.suite101.com/...dieval_castles

    Interesting overview of history of gunpowder, with some dates showing the fairly early appearance of it in Europe (the 1300s seem to be when it starts really impacting warfare):
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gunpowder

    Discussion of brass or bronze or cast iron for cannon:
    http://askville.amazon.com/cannons-m...uestId=6434497

    Cannon history articles I haven't fully reviewed:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_cannon
    http://www.hyw.com/books/history/cannon.htm
    http://www.cannon-mania.com/history.htm


    I figured I'd start with some articles that can serve as common ground on the internet. I obviously can't post books. I'm sure some of you are quite well read on these subjects. It seems Kgauck and some others are particularly well acquainted with military history, so I'd love some of your input.

    That's it for intro. I'll get into the meat of what I wanted to talk about next.

  2. #2
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    Initial thoughts on cannons and ships

    Seems to me that the 14th century saw major developments in warfare, with the first cannons really coming on to the scene and fortifications being rethought during that period to survive them. Also, they were brought onto ships. I should note that while small arms appeared during this time and could be introduced into BR, it doesn't seem like muskets became primary armaments of militaries until the 17th and 18th centuries, which is, I think, beyond the time period we're interested in.

    So while cannon could come in and transform artillery, fortifications, and naval combat, arquebuses and matchlock muskets could be developed, but would not replace crossbows and longbows for centuries yet. This would be because their accuracy was not superior and, primarily, their rate of fire was far inferior, particularly to bows, and particularly considering the expense and care of the firearms and gunpowder. They'd be a novelty, and could perhaps be a new unit type, but just a different type of missile unit not inherently superior to archers. Perhaps they'd just get the +2 unit bonus vs. any unit with heavy armor, thus reducing the effectiveness of heavy armor. They'd probably cost more, though, and on a roll of 1 I'd say the unit takes a Hit.

    So I'm not too interested in personal firearms; I think they can be introduced for flavor but make no more impact on the mechanics of warfare in the game than what I've described above.

    On to cannon. These have more impact than personal firearms, so I think it's worthwhile to figure out how the development of this technology can be implemented and controlled on a realistic scale for the game, as well as how expensive it is and what impacts it does have. It's tempting to want to create a Tech Tree like many computer games, but many of us will find that distasteful. It's also tempting to handle innovation through random rolls simulating inspiration (since the pace of invention and transformative paradigm shift was slower and less reliable through this historical period), but that can be frustrating to play out and involve a fair bit of time and attention to deal with, more than may be available in the limited setting of a PBEM.

    One approach long ago was a BRnet member's development of Wonders of different levels, and having a Magic Academy be able to develop gunpowder and advances upon it as it went up in level, with gunpowder trade routes possible, and with a Naval Academy Wonder capable of implementing it on ships. This can work, but again could be cumbersome. The advantage it has is that advances in development are kept at a reasonable pace naturally by the sheer cost of developing the Wonder (thus, the cost is also accounted for).
    Last edited by Rowan; 07-10-2009 at 04:34 PM. Reason: Edited for more manageable sized posts

  3. #3
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    Research mechanism

    I would propose something perhaps more general than the Wonder system, and thus a bit more applicable to a PBEM:
    Initial Premise: To restrict major advances and prevent a series of groundbreaking, transformative paradigm shifts in rapid succession, I propose segmenting major advances into Ages or Paradigms or Generations (whatever you want to call them). Yes, it sounds suspiciously like a tech tree, but I think the imposition of an artificial restriction--a minimum length of time required to enter the next one, irrespective of money and domain actions spent--is a key distinction from the tech tree approach, which would otherwise allow rapid progression through what should be unknown paradigm shifts (and are known to us only by hindsight in history).

    I think it takes at least a long generation--30 years--of people dealing with one paradigm before having a breakthrough and shifting to another. This way, GMs can select which Age or Generation of the major game-changing technologies they want to be in, and not have to worry about players pushing through to the next one until we're talking about the next generation of characters (of course, the GM still has ultimate control, but this is a compromise between player desire for technological innovation and superiority and GM sanity).

    1. 1st Age or Generation of Gunpowder. This sees the first heavy cannon made possible. This will have impacts on shipbuilding and fortifications to be discussed later. Petards can be launched by catapults. Arquebuses appear and are a novelty. Units of any of these are more expensive than "conventional" medieval units.

    2. 2nd Generation of Gunpower. This sees light cannon made possible. Now they are more mobile, cheaper, and more can be mounted on ships and fortifications. Matchlocks become more common and units are easier to field, but are still not superior to other forms of missile units.

    3. 3rd Generation of Gunpowder. Now heavy and light cannon are more affordable and commonplace. Old fortifications and mechanical artillery are obsolete. More common musket units have not replaced crossbows and longbowmen, but they have made deployment of heavy units (elite infantry and knights) riskier, since they are more vulnerable to such unit types. Ships without cannon (technically "guns" when on a ship) are notably inferior warships, and galleys are made obsolete because of their fragility and limited ability to mount guns.

    4. 4th Generation of Gunpowder. I don't like the idea of BR ever entering this era or beyond. At this point, gunpowder technology really starts becoming dominant and replacing a lot of that wonderful melee combat, fancy armor, and so forth. I DO think that could occur within a minimum of 120 years (with that artificial 30 year minimum paradigm barrier), but I wouldn't recommend it. Use the old cop out that gunpowder simply, physically, does not work as well in this fantasy setting as it does in the real world to prevent any further advances. Don't allow musketry to become superior to a good unit of longbowmen--keep its implementation dangerous (hangfire and explosion being problems that can't be eliminated) and inaccurate, as well as not terribly powerful (not totally rendering armor obsolete). Don't let cannons increase their power, range, or portability beyond a certain point--gunpowder should remain somewhat uncontrollable, thus needing cannon barrels of a certain weight to control their explosions, and range and power limited. Yes, this involves limiting metallurgy as well, but I think that's okay, too, to preserve the flavor of the game. So basically, I think the 3rd Generation is the limit, before it stops being BR.

    You could do something similar with other technologies, like Steam. I think steam ships are more flavor-breaking than limited trains are, so I take that approach.
    1. 1st Generation of Steam. Basic engines are able to pull small trains (starting with mine trains) or act as secondary propulsion on river boats. Primarily an expensive novelty, but could be applied as a special Highway to promote more valuable overland or river trade routes. Trains have cargo capacity/bunks like ships, but have much less direct military use and end up being a more expensive form of transportation.

    2. 2nd Generation of Steam. Better trains, less expensive, more commonly used for trade routes--but still only very short stretches or very limited long stretches, with length of trains being short. Steamboats more common on rivers, with primary propulsion, but still largely too unstable for ocean-going ships. Some other applications, such as pumps and mills, are possible. Not so cost prohibitive.

    3. 3rd Generation of Steam. Cost competitiveness is the major advance. Railroads might become as extensive as what is normally left of the Imperial Highway at the beginning of most games. I still would not want to see steam on ocean vessels, because the Age of Sail is still so rich and viable for BR. Heavier industry may be possible, though, with steam engine machines, reducing the cost of mining/use of heavy metal and steel (as in armor) and fortifications. This could keep armor and fortifications alive and keep armored knights in the field, despite advancing gunpowder technology.

    4. 4th Generation of Steam. I will not yield to modernism! I would not let it get past 3rd Gen--perhaps limited Steampunk, which can be fun, could fit, but don't get into all-metal ships, and certainly not steam turbine generators.
    Last edited by Rowan; 07-10-2009 at 04:40 PM. Reason: Edited for readability

  4. #4
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    As for researching such technology and progressing through the Generations, I think that can be handled by expanding the Research action a little. I would NOT complicate things further by creating minimum province or holding requirements; the expense and time involved in Court actions naturally controls or encourages high development of the rest.

    1. Research must be conducted as a Court action, maximum of 1 per Month conducted on a particular Advance, costing 5GB base cost, and could be assisted by Character actions from the regent or from Lieutenants with relevant skills (Profession: Engineer, Profession: Shipwright, Alchemy, or similar; or in 4e Alchemy feat, Arcana, Dungeoneering, History, Thievery, Nature).

    2. Research actions accumulate Advancement ratings or points at a rate of 1 per success point over DC 20. This gives credit to the random die roll and to whatever resources and skills the Regent is able to pour into the effort.

    3. You could set Advancement Points required for each particular innovation, or just set a standard scale of 1-300 points required for the next one.

    The innovations would need to be broken down in each Generation of applicable tech. I know, it sounds like a tech tree, but I think they're actually all independent within each generation. For example, 1st Generation Gunpowder Advances could be researched independently (no prerequisities required beyond a Base innovation).

    I'll give an example with cannon. I think cannon can be handled as a type of Artillerist/Engineer unit, and for navies, either consist of those Artillerist/Engineer units placed aboard ship (which I think is too powerful), or modify the ships themselves (build them in). Advances could consist of :

    A. Heavy Cannon Artillery Unit. This is a Base innovation. The unit would be very similar to an Artillerist unit, but more expensive and more powerful. Missile rating would be +2 higher, movement could never be more than 1, muster cost would be +4 (thus having a 2GB higher maintenance cost, as well). The "Special" section would include that on a roll of natural 1, the unit takes 1 hit; also add 1 more square of Range at half missile rating (round down) and replace the +4 Warcraft bonus for moving foot units into fortified areas (which is normally by Siege tower; Catapults and Trebuchet don't actually reduce walls well, though they can damage troops on or behind walls) with the ability to attack the Fortification directly (Fort Defense is 20+Level), destroying 1 level of effective Fortification level with each Hit in a particular area.

    Thus, when reduced to 0, a breach or collapsed tower is caused, eliminating the defensive value of the fortification in that area. Each Hit would cost 1GB to repair. This is why you want defensive artillery to take out the offensive ones before they have a chance to bring down your walls

    A1. Elite Heavy Cannon Unit. This is a training issue, making the Elite unit rating available.
    A2. Heavy Cannon Power. This is the +2 Missile rating, reflecting stronger cannons.
    A3. Heavy Cannon Morale. This is the +2 Morale rating, reflecting better training.
    A4. Efficient Heavy Cannon Construction. A reduction in cost to only 2GB higher than normal artillery (thus only 1GB higher maintenance)
    A5. Artillery Emplacements. An offensive Fortification advancement allowing Artillery units to achieve 1 greater range (letting normal Artillerists match Cannon range) and providing a +2 defense rating even against cannon. Adds 25% to cost of fortification.
    A6. Cannon Resistance. A defensive Fortification advancement (stable earthen ramparts, more extensive use of ditches, angled or curved walls). Fortification Defense against cannons rises to 24 and it takes 2 hits to reduce each level. Adds 75% to cost of fortification.

    B. Naval Cannon--"Guns". This is a Base innovation. Cannons can be placed on the ship, with 4 cannons representing each increment (a Battery) of +2 to missile rating and occupying 1GB of Cargo space. 1 Bunk space can be sacrificed to preserve 1GB of cargo space. Each battery (+2 increment) costs 2GB. Add 1 increment of Artillery range, but missile rating is reduced by half (round down). On a Critical Hit against a ship with cannon that is at half or below hull points, the powder magazine is ignited, destroying the ship utterly (can't be salvaged or repaired, whereas another ship dropped just to 0 hits is just dead in the water).

    This means that Coasters can be converted to light gunships with a missile rating of +2 for 4GB; Caravels can manage up to 4 batteries/16 guns with a missile rating of +0 to +8, costing 6GB to 14GB; and Galleons can hold 9 batteries/36 guns and a missile rating of +2 to +18, costing 15GB to 33GB (the first +2 is also assumed to be guns, really making up to a 40 gun ship).

    B2. Elite Naval Gunnery. Add +2 to any ship's missile rating for 1GB per hull point. Smaller ships with fewer guns are more mobile and closer to the water line, aiming the ship more easily effectively gaining a higher proportionate increase than the larger ships which rely more on volume of fire, anyway.
    B3. Gunner Morale. The morale training for units, 1GB per hull point.
    B4. Gunport Improvements. +3 to missile and 3GB for each increment, with the same sacrifice of 1GB cargo or 1 Bunk for each increment. This allows more artillery to be built into the ship with less impact on Cargo and Troop capacity.
    B6. Thicker Hulls. Defensive improvement. +4 to defense against Artillery attacks, 1 extra Hit for the hull. 2GB for Light ships, 4GB for medium ships, 6GB for heavy ships.
    B7. Efficient Construction. Reduce cost of ships by 25%.

    As you can see, it would take enormous expense and time to achieve all of these on one's own. A number of these could be effectively sold. I would think that in order to enter the next "generation" after the 30 year requirement has been reached, either all of these advances would need to have been achieved, or perhaps something like 10,000-30,000 research points would need to have been achieved by realms within the culture (which would naturally include the base advances and even other advances made by many different realms).
    Last edited by Rowan; 07-10-2009 at 05:07 PM. Reason: Edited for readability

  5. #5
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    Others, broken galleon

    What other game-changing Renaissance advances are there that need to be accomodated?

    Oh, and does anyone else think that the unit stats for the Galleon are bogus? The setting describes a sailing galleon, but the statistics seem to describe a large war galley with rams, oars, little missile, many troops (much melee), too much sailing speed, too much open cargo space, and too much hull strength for a galley. The Zebec is similar, except with way too much sailing speed for a galley. Seems to me the Zebec is okay, except its sailing speed should be knocked down a notch, but the Galleon needs to be made into a sailing vessel, without the combat movement rating, no ram, higher missile, perhaps less bunks or less melee, more morale. At least get rid of the incongruent ram and reduce the MV to 1. Sail 12 or 16, Cargo 6, Bunks 3, Melee +8, Missile +2, Def 16, Hull 4, Move 1, Morale +4. Or Bunks 2, Melee +6, Missile +4, and keep the Zebec as a galley with melee +8 for all its warrior rowers.

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    Gunpowder and steam...did not at all arrive at the scene at the same time. Only the former needs be considered.

    Gunpowder will - eventually - lead to effective guns that can quickly bring down the walls of even the mightiest castle. In RL the fall of Constantinople is perhaps the best known example of siege bombards being used to good effect; there are many other examples (incidentally, one of the reasons Venice was able to remain a major Med power for so long has to do with its inaccessibility from armies attacking overland).

    Gunpowder will also lead to personal firearms. Initially they will supplement crossbows/bows, being no more effective nor cheaper. Eventually their ease of manufacture and use will conspire to make the the supreme weapon of mass infantry armies.

    Gunpowder will also enable an evolution of ship design, which will eventually lead to galleys armed with a bow-firing heavy cannon and to the full-rigged ship carrying hull-smashing ordnance low in the hull.
    Cheers
    Bjørn
    DM of Ruins of Empire II PbeM

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    Thanks for the comment.

    I think I included your historical observations about gunpowder technologies in my posts, including the general progression of the technology over time and its effects in the setting.

    I suggested a "generation" based limitation to make sure technological advances don't occur unrealistically quickly. It usually takes settling in for quite a while under one paradigm and making that one work to its limits before its shortcomings are really identified and new breakthroughs are made.

    As for steam, I'm aware that applied steam technology beyond some very basic mining tech (water pumps, lifts) and milling didn't occur until after the Renaissance period. However, the PBEM that inspired this (Royal Bloodlines) has stated that the 2 DMs want to begin to introduce some advanced tech: "Advanced technology is just starting to appear in Anuire. Prototypes of crude steam engines, explosives, gunpowder, and mechanical devices have been created."

    I have no problem with some steam tech earlier than Europe applied it because the concepts and basic steam engines had been around for many centuries prior to receiving the investment and attention that transformed it into a useful industrial technology. Further, it is independent of gunpowder--you don't need to reach a certain level of technological ability with gunpowder-related technologies or with ships as a prerequisite of figuring out steam. So there's no reason why someone couldn't have stumbled upon steam engine concepts earlier.

    In fact, I think it would be fun, so long as steam doesn't become a dominating power source. Just as I think cannons and some firearms can coexist with the traditional BR flavor, so long as they don't become too dominant. I do favor a sort of fiat approach to saying that gunpowder and steam technologies simply do not work as well in Cerilia as they do in the real world, so they will never become dominant, no matter what. It's a fantasy world with different physics, after all. Advanced metallurgy, advanced chemistry, combustion, electricity, nuclear power, all these things simply may not exist or just may not work well in a fantasy world.

  8. #8
    Administrator Green Knight's Avatar
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    Feel free to add steam to the equation...I merely pointed out that the introduction of gunpowder is quite appropriate for the time-period (and listed some issues that would arise from its introduction) and that the addition of steam is not.

    If you have steam...why not have an industrial revolution? Railroads, rifled artillery etc.

    Far beyond the scope of my BR games.
    Cheers
    Bjørn
    DM of Ruins of Empire II PbeM

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    Gunpowder kill first old artillery (catapult),then archers and finally the cavalry.
    But we also follow a different path....The development of gunpowder could be different from the historic one.For example you can use gunpowder only for mining and eventually hand grenades bypassing the invention of cannon.

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    At 05:39 PM 7/18/2009, vota dc wrote:

    >Gunpowder kill first old artillery (catapult),then archers and finally the cavalry.
    >
    >But we also follow a different path....The development of gunpowder could be different from the historic one.For example you can use gunpowder only for mining and eventually hand grenades bypassing the invention of cannon.


    The "traditional" use of explosive powders in fantasy fiction is fireworks....

    However, given that the Chinese were combining sulphur and saltpetre for various medicinal reasons, which led to the discovery of explosive powders, it seems likely that various medical uses might come up with something similar. If guns aren`t assumed to be the route whereby some explosive powder might be developed, consider the following evidence to support medicine as a development route:

    The Handbook For Boys by Major Charles Lynch of the American National Red Cross, 1926 edition, it was recommended to cauterize the wound as found particularly efficacious by hunters, pour the gunpowder into the wound, and set it alight. This one sounds like a particularly bad idea to me (and the idea that it was put into a text meant for children should give people pause...) but in the absence of antibiotics, sterile bandages or healing magics, one could see why it might be done.

    For similar reasons, gunpowder has been occasionally used as a sterilizer when other options are not available.

    Brown brown is a mixture of cocaine and gunpowder given to soldiers (often child soldiers, sorry to say) that makes them fearless in battle, remorseless and, I would imagine, gives them very screwed up sinus passages. Snorting sulfur up the nose sounds like a technique that the Inquisition might have employed. The gunpowder itself has no actual medicinal or recreational effects, but in a culture that believes in a sympathetic magical relationship between physical and spiritual effects then it has a certain cache, and its combination with medicinal herbs might be something that would be experimented upon.

    Due to a lack of salt, a surgeon of the Napoleonic Army named Dominique-Jean Larrey prepared bouillon of horse meat seasoned with gunpowder for the wounded under his care. This is, of course, a gastronomic rather than medical use, but I hope you`ll note that it was a doctor who came up with this particular use, not a chef.

    There are stories of frontiersmen using gunpowder to make ink to write with. Similarly, gunpowder was mixed with various substances (most notably urine, if you can believe that...) to make an ink for tattoos by sailors who`d discovered the art in Polynesia. But both of those seem like more of an after-the-fact use rather than
    something someone might do as part of creating the stuff.

    Gary
    Last edited by Thelandrin; 07-19-2009 at 10:35 AM.

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