Category Archives: genre
In the world of Gunpowder Fantasy, there is a fine line to walk between magic and technology.
Magic will necessarily impact how technology develops within your world. If magic is extremely common, useful and easy to use, why would people develop technology like steam power and rifles? On the other hand, a lack of magic will facilitate the advancement of these technologies much like it did in our world.
To that end, I’ve developed a rudimentary formula that can help you determine what your starting point should be so you get the most out of your world.
On the magic side of things, I have 4 scores: Commonality, Functionality, Difficulty, and Cost. All rated on a scale of 1-10.
Commonality, How Common is Magic?
For Commonality, you want to decide how common you want magic to be in your world. Can everyone use magic, either through natural talent or the ability to learn? Then you’re going to give your magic system a Ten for commonality. Is magic, inversely, very rare, either because it requires a rare natural talent or years of study? Then your magic system gets a One.
Functionality, How Useful is Magic?
For this score, you want to decide what areas of your world magic can affect. Can your magic users do anything they want with magic? Fireballs, teleportation, communication, etc. If you want magic to touch every part of your world, you’re going to give it a Ten. On the other hand, if you want magic to be very narrowly useful, then a One score is appropriate.
Difficulty, How Difficult is Magic?
If you want your magic to be difficult to control or learn, then give it a Ten. If you want your mages and wizards to be able to weave magic and cast spells without much challenge, then score a One.
Cost, What Does Magic Cost?
No cost magic that can be cast all day and without fear of repercussion? A Ten. MAgic that costs life energy and exhausts the mage, or even blood magic that requires a sacrifice to achieve? A One
Once you have determined these scores, you add them together for a maximum total score of 40 for a common, easy to use, very useful and low cost magic system. A very rare, marginally useful magic system that has a high degree of difficulty and cost will rate a minimum of 4.
Once your have your Total Magic Score, you divide it by 8. Why 8? Because that’s the sweet spot that I found for impact on technology.
Writing a Gunpowder Fantasy means that you have embraced that technology and society will be advancing beyond the stasis of Medieval Europe that many fantasies embrace, at least in some areas and at some rate.
Base Technology, What is your Starting Point?
For the most part, I would recommend giving your world a base technology score of Ten so that the modifications work the best.
Progression, How Fast/Far Will Tech Go?
This score is rated from 0-2, in .5 increments and measures how fast and how far technology will move over the course of your story. There are two determining factors in this score: how long will you be in this world, and how fast do you want technology to develop. The first part is fairly simple: do you want to write a Stand-Alone Novel? Then technology is not likely to advance very far. A series, especially focused on conflict, will typically advance beyond your starting point (See my Post Here on the Arms Race).
Inversely, if you’re writing a series you’ll want to see a progression of technology rather than rapidly leaping from one technology level to the next, so this will lower the progression score.
Final Tech Score
Now that we have the parts of our formula in place, we can put it to work as such:
(Base Tech)-(Progression)-((Commonality+Functionality+Difficulty+Cost)/8)=Final Tech Score
For what this score means, I have a 4 point scale for technology that impacts Weapons, Travel/Communication, and Society.
One – Worlds with a final technology score of 1 will be at the very basic end of the Gunpowder Fantasy Spectrum. Weapons will be in the mid to late Match Lock era with primitive artillery. Travel will be entirely beast of burden driven, with no steam-powered trains or ships. Communication will be messenger and courier based. Society will likely still be in the feudal stages or even despotism and there will be no collective labor groups.
Real World Example – Early Colonial Period of the United States; Europe from the 15th to early 18th centuries.
Three – As your technology score rises, so does the access to firearms and artillery. A world with a 3 rating will have smoothbore, flintlock rifles, moderately early smoothbore artillery and mortars. Travel will still be animal driven, though a high 4 score might be in the early stages of railroad development and communication will still rely on couriers or messengers. Absolutely monarchies will be replacing the feudal system but collective labor will still be a thing of the future.
Real World Example – Revolutionary War Period of the United States; Seven Years War in Mid-to-Late 18th Century
Five – A middle of the road score will see percussion muskets in use and the early stages of railroad travel coming to life in your world. You might also see the first stages of telegraph systems at a high 6 rating. Early representative and democratic governments start to replace the ancient kingdoms and empires as labor begins to collect under the banner of guilds.
Real World Example – The Mexican-American War of the 19th Century; Crimean War in Europe
Seven – Rifling has entered the world of firearms, allowing for more accuracy at longer ranges and a shift in combat tactics. Artillery will have started to implement rifling as well. Railroads, and even the early stages of steam powered ships, will be common in a world with a rating of Seven . Telegraphy will be common, allowing for rapid communication across entire nations with minimal lag. Democracy will still be a developing form of governments but labor will be strongly collectivized in Guilds and even the earliest formation of Unions could be seen.
Real World Example – American Civil War
Nine – The most advanced bracket of technology in a Gunpowder Fantasy, a score of 9 will see the use of repeating rifles and revolvers. Railroads will be extremely common and well-developed as will the use of telegraphy to communicate complex orders and news. Democracy will be the government de jour and Unions will have replaced Guilds as the most common form of Collected Labor.
Real World Example – American Imperialist Period of the late 19th Century, Industrial Revolution.
Beyond these technologies, you start to lean into Steampunk territory. In the end, no matter where this formula leads you, it’s your world to do with as your please. I hope that this proves helpful, however, in pointing you in the right direction for where your technology should start and where it can lead based on what your goals are and how far you want to take the Gunpowder Fantasy Genre.
Which Point of View method an author decides to use when writing his/her book is often based on what story the author wants to tell and which POV will allow the author to do that in the best way.
For my works, I almost exclusively gravitate toward 3rd Person (Limited); that is: a story told from an outside point of view but where the information conveyed is limited to the knowledge of the target character.
I think that my fondness for this format springs from the fact that I’m very heavily read in 3rd(Limited). David Weber and George RR Martin make heavy use of 3rd(Limited) and I have more books by Weber than any single author.
It isn’t that I find anything wrong with 1st person POV, I’ve just found it very difficult to finish first person novels lately. I have decided to at least try to write a novella or a novel in the first person but for now I think I’ll avoid that.
For The Cerberus Rebellion, I decided to take a page from George RR Martin and use a multiple character approach to the 3rd(L) POV.
I went with this approach because I knew that the story I wanted to tell would need more than one approach. With a single POV story, I tend to run into the problem that the antagonist is one-dimensional. You typically only see that character from the protagonist side of the story
With a multi-pov I’m able to give my antagonist a voice and shown why he does what he does.
I chose the Limited rather than the Omniscient (wherein the author “head-hops” into the mind of various involved characters) because it helps maintain some mystery to the events that are taking place.
I think that many stories would be far less interesting if we were able to read the thoughts of every character involved.
What is your take on pov?
One of the problems that I’ve come across already is the lack of previous work in this area. There are a handful of books that have used this sub-genre title and I’m sure that there are other previous works that have integrated gunpowder into a typical fantasy setting.
The problem of course is finding those works.
So in writing my Gunpowder Fantasy, I’ve had very little in the way of other work to compare mine too.
I think this will probably work to my advantage as I will have a completely clean slate to work against. I don’t have many preconceived ways to integrate the magical elements of my world with the rest of my world.
A few years back, however, I stopped dabbling in Fantasy and have predominantly worked on Science Fiction, particularly the Space Opera and Military Sci-Fi sub-genres. I just liked the idea of writing massive space epics that spanned hundreds of light years.
But recently, I’ve started to go back to the Fantasy genre. It started when my younger brother was over and he mentioned that he had this idea for a story set in a Fantasy world. He’s a song writer, though, so he passed the basics of the idea on to me. I wrote up a basic 2 page idea and have it on file ready to go when I have a chance.
The seed was planted.
I started to develop a new world, which I have named “Zaria” though that is likely to change, and have been working on that world more recently. I had started it as a gunpowder era world, think the late 1700s to early 1800s. I wanted to use some historical situations as a baseline.
Then one day I decided to add elves, and magic was close behind. I realized that my world didn’t really fit into any current sub-genres. It’s not quite Steampunk, as I’ve decided to leave steam power out for now (I may start to introduce it much later in the development of this world). But it’s definitely not High Fantasy.
I spent a couple of days trying to decide how to adjust this world to more easily fit into an established sub-genre and then I realized that I didn’t need to. Sub-genres have to start somewhere, so maybe this will be the start of one.
Special Shoutout to: @cultauthor for helping me decide to just go where the story takes me