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.
The writing on Loyalty Betrayed is complete, but the book is far from ready for queries, so I’m taking my own advice and letting it sit on the shelf for a little while before I pick it up for rewrites and editing.
In the Interim, however, my mind keeps spinning. I’ve decided to take this time to try something slightly different.
While getting ready for work this morning I had an idea for a new series set within the Griffins and Gunpowder universe, though about 5,000+ years in the past. Here’s the bit that wandered through my head and demanded attention:
“We are the last of our kind, hunted to the edge of extinction by those who would have this power all to themselves. They call us abominations against magic. They burn our brothers and sisters at the stake, and entice our neighbors to surrender us to our fates. But we are not alone. The power of dragons flows within our veins and the Broods stand with us.”
That makes 6 (I think) different series that are set within this world. That’s a lot of writing, I guess I should get to it!
The Centaur Incursion is 10k words deep and The Hydra Offensive is nearly through Round 1 of Paper Edits. I don’t have classes this summer, so I should be able to tear through my workload on both of those.
There, I started with an update!
Something that I’ve learned as I plot and write the stories of The Ansgari Rebellion, is that stories are more a living creation than a static work.
While the core of the series has remained essentially the same, many of the details have morphed and changed.
Characters have walked into the story from out of nowhere and insinuated themselves as cornerstones of the books in which they reside and those that follow.
Plot points have moved, from the beginning of the series, to the middle, and now to the end.
Even though I am a meticulous plotter, typically drawing up a book’s outline by chapter well before I start writing it, I’ve learned the benefits of being flexible with my story. My style has developed into a sort of hybrid: still heavily plotter, but with just enough pantser to allow for more story to develop and grow on its own.
In production news, The Centaur Incursion is underway! I’ve got 1,000 words written and more ready to come out as soon as I get a chance to sit down. Also, The Hydra Offensive is more than halfway through the first round of paper edits. I plan on putting it through a second round, in which I’ll break the chapters down by POV rather than by chapter order.
I’ll be looking for beta readers soon, so if you’re interested let me know!
Before the Industrial Revolution, populations were dispersed across nations. The number of people that could live in a given area was determined by the amount of food that could be produced close enough to the town/village and brought to market before it spoiled. Whether this was through agriculture, fishing, hunting, or livestock, food production was the number one determining factor of a population.
The Industrial Evolution changed that. As I discussed in my post on Agriculture in Gunpowder Fantasy, the reach of farms and farmers, and the ability to mechanize the production process, increased exponentially. This change left many farmhands without work. So they moved to the city, where new textile mills and factories were sprouting up to feed the Industrial machine.
Cities began to grow as more and more people poured into them from the countryside. But immigration wasn’t the only factor in the growth of cities. With better medicine and better food, more people were surviving for longer and having more children. Cities suddenly found themselves growing as much as 50% every 10 years.
On our world, this increase in population was strictly Human. But in a fantasy world, the immigrants and their children could be of a different species. Imagine a world where industrialization has suddenly rendered the majority of a dwarven city unemployed. Unable to feed their families, these dwarves move to the nearby human city, looking for work in the factories, foundries, and mills. They resent the fact that they have been replaced by machines and left to do the most menial tasks.
Imagine the tension between the two species, and any other populations that might live within the city.
This tension could lead to the formation of gangs as young, unemployed citizens roam the streets looking for fun, or to exact their own brand of justice on the world. The seeds of revolution could be planted, driving the nation toward civil war.
Overcrowding would also become a concern, as more and more people poured into the city, or were born into it. A city that had been built to house 10,000, within a generation it finds itself home to 30,000, many of them poor or uneducated. Sanitation would suffer and disease would spread. The city would tear itself apart as the rich hid within their houses and the pour died in the streets.
One aspect of traditional fantasy that I’ve incorporated into the Griffins & Gunpowder universe is the concept of a Knighthood as a part of the Military Apparatus.
For the nation of Ansgar, the Knighthood is part of the Chain Of Command but is not a requirement to become an officer.
While a knighthood comes with a Commission, a Commission does not come with a knighthood.
There are three ranks of the Ansgari Knighthood: Knight-Lieutenant, Knight-Captain, and Knight-Commander.
Each level of the Knighthood is considered the equivalent to a half rank. So, a Knight-Lieutenant B half a rank above a commissioned Lieutenant but also half of a rank below a commissioned Captain. The same is true of Knight-Captains between Captains and Majors, and Knight-Commanders above Majors but below Colonels.
Another unique aspect of the Ansgari Knighthood is that only the King can grant a Knighthood. Because of the distance involved, and the King’s increasing apathy toward them, the Western Nobles of Ansgar have a Muck lower occurrence Of knights within their ranks.
Depending on what parts of Traditional Fantasy you include in your world, consider different ways to integrate the title of knight.
So far, I’ve covered the Industrial and Commercial effects that an Industrial Revolution would have on a Fantasy World. I’ve also discussed how Gunpowder Fantasy affects Communication, the Arms Race, and gone over the basics of weapons technology in Gunpowder Fantasy.
But weapons weren’t the only aspect of the military the gunpowder changed. Tactics saw a major change during the Industrial Revolution, and especially as a part of the American Civil War.
Often referred to as “Napoleonic” tactics, armies before the American Civil War used basic flintlock and percussion muskets, which were notoriously short-ranged and inaccurate. Soldiers would line up in tight ranks of thousands of soldiers and march at the enemy. Because of the short range and inaccuracy of their weapons, the soldiers could get within a couple of hundred yards before they were in any sort of danger. The soldiers would fix bayonets and charge across the final few yards to fight their enemies in hand-to-hand combat.
During the early civil war, these tactics were still largely used, despite the fact that much improved weapons had been developed. But as technology advanced, and generals began to see that the old tactics were inefficient, strategies and tactics began to change.
Skirmishers became a major part of armies, moving ahead of the main army in small groups stretched across a thin line. Skirmishers screened larger battle elements, harassed enemy skirmishers, and scouted the enemy force for weaknesses.
A major change was the “Strategy of Maneuver” which taught that outmanuevering an enemy was the better way to victory, rather than brute force. Armies began to seek out advantages in the form of natural defenses and position, rather than bringing as many men to the field as possible.
When you’re creating your world, I feel it’s extremely important to consider where in the development of military tactics and strategy you will be placing your conflict. A part of this is the exact technology level you choose (early flintlocks or advanced rifles?) but it’s also important to consider how recently a major war has been waged.
In the example of Napoleon and the American Civil War. There were fifty years between the two major events, and weapons technology had a major leap in that time. If you set your world in a time with new technologies that haven’t seen a major war, your generals and armies are going to be fighting under the paradigm and theory of the last major war, rather than under the realities of the current technology.
The world of the The Cerberus Rebellion, for example, is set in a world very similar to the American Civil War. The last major conflict is more than 100 years old and was fought with an entirely different set of weapons. The generals, therefore, are still using the mass-and-fire tactics of that war. But as the war evolves, will the tactics as well?
But weapons and tactics aren’t the only thing that will change when you put your world through its Industrial Revolution.
It is said that there are two things that drive a nation to war: fuel and food. And that an army moves on its stomach.
Fuel is rather obvious: if your nation needs a fuel (say, Coal?) but it doesn’t have the necessary amount to sustain itself, it’s going to go elsewhere to find it.
Food, on the other hand, can have various aspects to it. I discussed in a previous post how the Industrial Revolution affected Agriculture and the production of food. In this post, I’ll discuss how changes brought about by the industrial revolution and these changes in agriculture brought about change on the military side of the board.
The biggest issue with marching an army across a nation has always been feeding the soldiers. People eat a lot, and soldiers who have to keep up their physical and mental toughness ate more. According to some reports, the average company from the North needed 125 pounds of pork or beef, 75 pounds of hard bread while in camp (more when on campaign), more than 6 pounds of compressed vegetables, 8 quarts of beans, 10 pounds of rice, 10 pounds of coffee beans, 10 pounds of sugar, and a gallon of vinegar¹. Well over 250 pounds of food for 100 men per day. All of that in addition to the water that those soldiers needed.
Before the industrial revolution, this food would be hauled by wagons pulled by oxen or mules. But those animals required their own food supplies, cutting into the payload that could be devoted to the soldiers. With the advent and expansion of the railroad system, moving food became far easier. Campaigns could reach further and armies march harder if they didn’t need to carry their supplies on their backs.
But this also led to a dependence on the rail system. Railroad stations became major hubs of activity and the rail lines that criss-crossed the nation became targets for sabotage.
That’s something to keep in mind when you’re writing your world. Remember the importance of the rail system and logistics to your world’s army. Rail stations would need to be protected and would be likely targets for capture. Rail bridges would be strategically invaluable and a retreating army would likely consider burning any bridges they could in order to slow or halt the advance of their enemies.
Before the Industrial Revolution, farming and food production was a major source of employment, but also a factor that limited expansion. Because a large portion of the population had to be dedicated to growing food and transporting it to where it needed to be, those same workers couldn’t be employed in factories and textile mills.
But with the advent of coal and steam-power, and the Industrial Revolution, came the advancement of agricultural technology. The ability to dedicate fewer and fewer workers to growing or transporting food, and better yield for the seeds that were planted, allowed for cities to grow and factories to expand.
Traditional fantasy settings will usually be placed before this change, and their towns, villages, and cities will reflect that status. There will be a great number of farmers and only a handful of craftsmen dedicated to the production of most goods. In a Gunpowder Fantasy, especially those set in the middle and later eras, your characters are going to find fewer and fewer farmers, and more and more unskilled factory laborers.
How you approach this can be an important plot point, or a minor note in your worldbuilding. The improvement of food planting and transportation meant that people in the cities didn’t need to go out and farm their own food, but they still needed to pay for it. Workers that are paid a poor wage for long periods will become hungry and begin demanding better wages and living conditions.
One way to approach this is to introduce unionization to your workforce, which can be a major political aspect if you want it to be. Where in traditional fantasies, Guilds of skilled artisans can hold great power, Unions that represent the common-man can be a part of your Gunpowder Fantasy.
Industrialization and improved transportation methods also means better quality food reaching the populations of your city, which in turn has other effects. Longer life-spans means workers are going to be able to stay on the job longer, learning their trade better but at the same time requiring housing for longer and likely demanding higher wages for their experience.
Families will grow larger as they are able to support more children than they could before.
Agricultural advances will also have an impact on your militaries, which is a topic I’ll be discussing in a later post.
The important thing to remember, as always, is to take the changes of the Industrial Revolution into account when you’re building your world. And Agriculture especially.
As I mentioned in my post on The Industrial Fantasy Age, coal as a fuel and steam power had a profound effect on our world, and can have the same impact on a Gunpowder Fantasy world. Especially in the area of commerce.
Before the industrial revolution, animal-pulled carts and sail and row-driven ships were the only method of moving goods from one place to the next. This limited the range that trade could be conducted, especially when perishable goods were involved. But as steam-power developed, and railroads expanded, commerce felt the impacts.
Roads have always been an aspect of trade networks. Roads allow carts to travel through areas that would be difficult otherwise. As the Industrial Revolution developed, especially in England, these roads became an important part of the network. But maintenance had been the responsibility of individual cities and counties. This led to inconsistent maintenance and sometimes poor road conditions.
Early in the Industrial Revolution, turnpike (or toll-way) trusts began to be established, taking responsibility for long stretches of road. Travelers paid a toll to use the road and those tolls were then used to maintain the road.
A more universal level of maintenance meant a more consistent rate of travel and allowed carts to move faster between cities and transport hubs. Merchants could move their goods more efficiently from the smaller towns to the larger cities and beyond.
Railroads were likely the most major transport improvement of the Industrial Revolution. What had once taken days and weeks to travel by horse or on foot, was reduced to hours and days. Railroads and steam engines also increased the amount of goods that could be carried from one industrial center to another.
For merchants, not only did this increase the speed with which they could move their goods, but it also gave them access to additional markets for their goods.
Sea travel before the Industrial revolution relied either on the wind and the weather or on oarsmen. Speeds were limited and ships found themselves immobilized by a lack of wind.
With the invention of the paddle-wheel (and later the steam-powered screw engine) ships gained consistency, speed and an independence from weather. Commercial trading on rivers became easier and allowed merchants to move their goods cheaper (because they don’t need to pay or feed oarsmen).
Commerce drives your nations. Not only do merchants move food and supplies from one center to another, but commerce drives the tax revenues that your nations use to fund their exploits and endeavors.
Keeping in mind how commerce will be different in Gunpowder Fantasy will allow you more flexibility in how your nations operate.
In fantasies, merchants are usually important members of society, but don’t have the reach that lords and nobles have. With access to railroads and their improved distribution, merchants become major players as part of your world. You begin to see “railroad barons” develop as they use their power to affect the world around them.