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.
For the many years that I’ve been writing, weaving some amount of political intrigue or drama into my stories has been a recurring theme. Whether it’s an MC who suddenly finds herself at the head of an emerging third power in a previously two-party system, or the quiet intrigue of nobles as they plot to free themselves from their King.
Traditional Fantasy politics usually follows along the lines of the latter. Knights, Nobles, Ladies, Kings, and Queens vying for power, plotting and scheming against each other.
For a good example of a strong political storyline in Fantasy, look no further than George RR Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series. But that’s traditional fantasy. Travel in Westeros is slow and arduous; even messenger ravens take days to move notes from place to place. That allows for a much slower, long game form of Politics.
But when you start introducing aspects of Gunpowder Fantasy, especially improved communication, the political game needs to evolve, and it needs to do it quickly.
When creating a Gunpowder Fantasy world, it’s important to remember a couple of things as far as the technologies that you intend to use, and the industries that support them, when building your world.
The first is the impact that the fantasy aspects of your world have on the industrial revolution in your world.
Having fantasy and magic elements of your world will change how your industrial revolutions begin and grow.
On Earth, coal became a driving force in the industrialization of England, Europe and the United States. Coal drove the steam engines that pushed industry to greater heights. But what happens when coal is never discovered or exploited because the mages of your world suppressed the knowledge of the substance or how to extract it from the mountains?
What if your Elves are of the traditional “naturalist” type but they hold dominion over the lands where coal is the most plentiful, or where the best fields for raising sheep are? Do your Humans go to war with the Elves to secure this territory (and its potential value)? Or do your Elves see the value of the lands they hold and turn into a hybrid of naturalist and capitalist, finding sustainable ways to harvest the raw materials while maintaining the integrity of the land?
Magic and mythical creatures, and how they impact your world, will have direct consequences for how industrialization plays out in your world.
On the other hand, the second is the impact that the industrial revolution has on the fantasy of your world.
In our world the Industrial Revolution took many shapes and forms, and affected different parts of the world in vastly different ways. Some nations saw a boom in mining and metallurgy, while other nations grew their textiles industry. Quality of life improved and commerce exploded.
In a fantasy world, the majority of these effects would be similar. Nations with a strong agricultural base will develop new and better ways to grow and harvest crops, nations rich in minerals will learn how to extract them better, and learn new methods of refining the minerals into metals.
But fantasy worlds have aspects that were obviously not present on Earth during the industrial revolution, and its these aspects that you have to consider when you’re building your world.
For instance, how does the increase of steam power, weapons technology, and even the development of electricity affect magic and its users on your world? I would think that as your world becomes increasingly industrialized, any power that mages once held would begin to diminish as things that were previously reserved only for those with access to magic become available to everyone.
Or how do each of the species of your world react as the others move through their own industrial revolution? What happens when the Orcs of your world begin developing better weapons, faster transportation, and improved supply lines? Will the Elves that live nearby become worried and launch a pre-emptive strike? Or seek out alliances with the Humans of your world?
Worldbuilding is an incredibly interconnected process and remembering to evaluate how each piece of the puzzle changes the others is an important task.
As is wont to happen, an idea for a new story floated through my head the other day. In my defense, at least this one is related to the Griffins & Gunpowder Universe. I haven’t decided if I’m going to make this concept into a series of short stories, weave it in with one of the other planned storylines set on Zaria, or turn it into a full-fledged series of novel.
The main body of the idea was easy enough, but when I got to my protagonist, I realized something: my main character was going to be different than every other Protag I have ever created. My MC is going to be a lowly soldier.
It was then that I realized that this is a common theme in both the Sci-Fi and Fantasy that I’ve read. So maybe I’m just not well read enough, but a lot of main characters are not lowly soldiers. The closest a great deal of MCs get is to be a lower ranked officer.
There are a lot of sub-genres of Sci-Fi and Fantasy that really don’t have this problem, but military themed fantasy definitely does. The closest that a lot of the stories I have read comes to having a “lowly” protagonist is a lower-ranked officer.
So why is it so rare to have a private, or even a corporal, as a protagonist in a story. What challenges does this create? Are there any advantages to have a “grunt” as an MC?
One of the biggest problems that you run into when you write an MC as a lowly soldier is that the character has very little initiative in their activities and no control of their setting. If your story is centered around a conflict, your Main Character is going to spend most of his/her time marching/camping/digging trenches and then there’s the occasional battle. Unless you add in some personal drama, you’re going to run into the problem of having a rather boring.
Another problem is that if you limit yourself to a single character, you’re going to have a limited strategic account of the rest of the campaign. Depending on your setting, news could still be conveyed by general announcements, newspapers, or good-old-scuttlebutt, but you’re not going to be able to convey an accurate picture of the campaign without breaking some rules.
On the other hand, there are some advantages to having a protagonist that doesn’t have as much control.
You can increase the amount of tension with a lowly soldier. The character isn’t going to know what’s going on with the rest of the campaign, they’ll be nervous as they march into battle.
I think that the reason that so few writers have lowly main characters is because it’s a more difficult approach to writing, especially military fiction. Of course, I could just need to read more =D
Founding and History
The Rhonish Republic was a collection of City-States in the center of the “Eastern Continent” on the southern half of Zaria. It consisted of five human cities (Venosh, Demosh, Pisor, Cahath, and Tohr), three Orcish cities (Rhon, Oros, and Idis), and one Elvish city (Sidor).
It was founded in the year 325 (according to the Ansgari calendar; a standard or common calendar is not in use) by the great Orcish warlord Aurak Tal’ar.
It was originally a defensive union between the Orcish city-states as they watched the human kingdoms around them consolidate power and evolve from centuries of internal struggle. Fearing that they would make easy prey as single units, the Orcs banded together under the Rhonish banner.
Soon after (approximately the year 334), the Elvish city of Sidor negotiated entry in to the Republic. With the addition of the first non-Orcish city, the Republic’s governmental system had to evolve to handle different kinds of citizens. Laws were enacted providing equality for any citizen of a Republican city in any other city.
In the year 417, Aurak Tal’ar passed away, leaving the leadership of the Republic in doubt. A clear line of succession had not been established and each city-state leader claimed the right to lead the Republic. From this chaos, a strong warlord rose to power. Ir’sus Ta’or, leader of the city of Rhon’s guard, beat his opponents into submission and then began building an army.
The island city of Pisor was the first human city added to the Republic. The leaders of Pisor saw the growing power of the army within Rhon and sought entry on their own terms.
In the year 441, Ir’sus lead the first war of conquest against the city of Demosh. The siege of the city was long and brutal, but with Pisor’s naval supremacy and the determination of the Orcish armies, the city was eventually subjugated. The city of Venosh followed within a year.
Fearing the expanding power of the Orcs to their north, the nobles of Istivan launched a suprise assault on Rhon. But the men moved too slow and the Republic’s army swept in from the north and destroyed the besieging army.
Ir’sus Ta’or led a counterattack against Istivan, invading the cities of Tohr and Cahath. When the peace treaties were drawn up, the cities remained as part of the Republic.
Fall of the Republic
For two-hundred and fifty years the Republic grew and developed as a commercial powerhouse. It’s position in the Jenis Sound, gave access to the major naval nations of the world and the trade convoys that brought wealth and goods.
But with the growing power and influence of the Republic came the increasingly complex beauracracy necessary to keep the Republic in line. The first major signs of trouble came in the year 733. The leadership of the Republic enacted laws limiting the influence of non-Orcs within the government structure.
In 751 a civil war erupted, pitting the Orcs of the Republic against the non-Orcs. Despite their greater strength and endurance, the Orcs were unable to contain the revolutionaries. Saboteurs within the predominantly Orcish cities caused chaos and disorder.
Finally, in 768, the Republican Council declare the Republic disbanded and returned all power to the constituent city-states.
Being that The Cerberus Rebellion takes place in the nation of Ansgar, I think it is fitting that we discuss that nation first.
Founding and Recent History
The nation of Ansgar is located on the Northern Continent of the planet Zaria. It was founded by a group of colonists from the nation of Welos 1248 years prior to the beginning of The Cerberus Rebellion. The nation is largely populated by the medium height, light skinned and dark haired Welosi, though intermarrying with the native Nordahrians has created a mixed lineage in many areas of the nation.
Ansgar is an absolute monarchy supported by a powerful feudal system including Dukes, Earls, Barons, Lesser Lords and landed Knights. At the beginning of The Cerberus Rebellion, Ansgar is home to approximately 20 million citizens, including the occupied territories of Kerberos.
For near 1100 years, the nation of Ansgar was at peace with the nations around it. They fought with pirates along their southern coast, raiders from the nation of Franta and the occassional invasion of marauders, but for the most part maintained a policy of peace through strength.
In the year 1148 After Founding, the small neighboring nation of Kerberos, lead by their King Sigurd Jarmann, invaded the eastern territories of Ansgar. The war rages for 3 years on Ansgari soil and then another 8 years as King William the Defender pushes the Kerberosi back across their own lands and finally captures their capitol of Agilard.
King Sigurd surrenders his power and accepts the rule of the Ansgari throne, converting his nation into a region of Ansgar. He retains his position as liege lord of Kerberos and is given the title of Duke.
Ansgari International Relations
As a one-time colony of [[Welos]], Ansgar has maintained close ties with its mother nation, despite centuries of independence. As the most industrialized nation on the northern continent, Ansgar enjoys a position of power among its neighbors as well. Most of the firearms used in the northern hemisphere are manufactured in Ansgar.
The last few kings of Ansgar, however, have abused this position of power, using the incredibly large market that their nation represents as leverage against other nations of the world. This has created resentment even in the nations that have the best relations with Ansgar.
Regions of Ansgar
- Eastern Ansgar is the heart of the nation. It is the location of the first settlements that the colonists from Welos built. The oldest castles and cities of Ansgar are found in the East. While there are some mineral deposits and smaller foundries, the eastern territories are only moderately industrialized. They focus on luxury goods such as wine, spices and beers, and on basic food stuffs.
- Central Ansgar is largely considered to be the breadbasket of Ansgar. The low plains and fields, and constant flow of percipitation from the ocean provides perfect growing conditions for food and spices. The central regions of Ansgar are the least industrialized.
- In the West, iron rich mountains have resulted in a robust industrial base including major weapons foundries at the Black Mountain Barony. Silver mines at the Odwolfe Earldom provide a steady stream of income for the western districts and taxes for the Throne. Farms in the Black River Valley provide steady foodstuffs and major ports at the Sea Watch Duchy. Tirrell Barony, and White Ridge Duchy.
Because of its status as an annexed territory, the Kerberosi territories of Ansgar are the most self-sufficient. They are moderately industrialized, but still maintain a healthy agriculture, and have extensive mineral reserves that provide the raw materials for their foundries and factories.
The nation of Ansgar is so expansive that its economy stands on many legs. Weapons manufacturing in the west, shipwrights in the southwest, spices and food stuffs in the fertile central region, and luxury goods in the east all support the Ansgari economy. Industry spread throughout the nation provides the heavy lifting for the whole nation, though no single area of the nation is especially focused on industrialization.
…Sam Colt made them equal.
This is a phrase spawned by the Colt firearms company’s famous revolvers (and later other types of weapons).
Colt firearms were, for a long time, the standard issue sidearm in the United States. Everyone had one. But eventually, competition evolved and now Colt is just another firearms manufacturer.
This post was actually spawned by a conversation over on MythicScribes.com going over the plausibility of one author’s world in relation to firearms and gunpowder. In his world, only the single dominant nation has advanced their knowledge of firearms; there are magic users and brutes capable of taking fire from these small arms, but no one has developed competing technology.
My point was that a nation that maintained such a position of dominance for too long would quickly cause their enemies to band together and bring down the juggernaut.
Since the formation of governments and nations, there has been an ever evolving arms race. Offensive weapons are developed to counter defensive weapons; defensive weapons are developed to counter the new offensive weapons, and so on. A fantasy world would be no different.
Being the first nation to develop a particular weapon, like muskets that are useful in a massed infantry setting or rifling, would give them the advantage in developing newer technology, but in all likelihood their dominance would not be absolute nor would it be enduring.
Writing an arms race can be an exciting plot point, especially if you’re writing a series. Having one nation start at a noted disadvantage but slowly regain parity with their enemy can drive action. How will your hero defeat an enemy that is significantly better equipped than his? How will your protagonist react when his army, technologically superior to that of his enemy, is ordered to slaughter what equates to a herd of helpless sheep?
Another part of the arms race to keep in mind is the fact that two nations at war will pour money into research and development at a greater rate than nations at peace. The nations engaged in war, if it goes long enough, will slowly develop an advantage over the other nations of the world.
A wonderful example of this is from one of my favorite Sci-Fi Series, the Honor Harrington series by David Weber. In this series, the Star Kingdom of Manticore and the Republic of Haven start at roughly an equivalent technological position as the rest of the universe. Over the course of their decade+ war, however, they improve technology, develop new weapons and tactics that put them so far ahead of even the largest star nation that they are able to defeat a much larger force of ships from nations that were in a state of peace and had no drive to develop newer weapons and technology.
Eventually, that technology lead would dissipate and today, I’ll go over just a few ways that a technology could fall into the hands of enemies or “allies” and cause the proliferation of those technologies outside of their creator nations.
The most direct way for a government to try to recover information about an opposing nation’s technology is to commission and support spies directly. These spies can be of the military variety, targeting information and technologies that would help the military directly; or of the “government variety” (aka CIA types). These spies are targeted at a broader range of information and technology.
Practically, when targeting the technology base of an enemy, these two types of spies are going to have a similar goal and likely similar results.
This can be a form of government sponsored espionage as well as a private-sector type. Sending workers to infiltrate the companies producing weapons and sneak out information about how they work and how they are created. This is definitely more of a “long game” type of espionage.
Writing this type of espionage can be done in a variety of different ways. You can write in families implanted in an enemy nation generations prior, with the consistent goal of eventually gaining a position within the corporate establishment and sending back information. A more short term plan is also an option, with migrant workers moving into the target nation and eventually getting jobs in the factories and foundries.
Infiltration of the supply line would be another form of espionage. If the factories and foundries have security that is too tight, workers “up-stream” can still gather information about the materials used in the assembly of weapons and their ammunition.
A truly dedicated nation would employ all of these types of espionage to gather information on the weapons that their enemy lords over them.
Raids or Skirmishes
Does your “uber nation” have super-strict security? Do they screen their workers more intensely than the TSA, making corporate or traditional espionage impossible? Raids and skirmishes are a solid option for retrieving weapons. And the great thing about raids and skirmishes in a fantasy setting are that bandits and outlaws can be a viable excuse.
Plausible deniability is the key when discussing ostensibly state-sponsored raids and attacks. Order a small unit to attack an enemy outpost, but in non-military garb, retrieve examples of weapons and ammunition, and when the offended nation claims the attack, deny that the attackers were part of your military and still profit from their recoveries.
Greed is a powerful driving factor. Overt greed is typically going to be of the third party variety. An arms manufacturer signing agreements with either Nation A or Nation B could swing the balance from one side to the other in an otherwise close war.
But greed doesn’t necessarily have to be this obvious. An unscrupulous businessman could feed weapons and information to a neighboring nation, encouraging them to raid supply wagons with arms shipments onboard. This would create tension with the government but also give the second nation a look at weapons. And if it were to come to war, they would be in a direct position to profit from the war by creating more weapons for their government.
So, in conclusion, when you’re worldbuilding, be sure to keep in mind that the technological advantage that one nation might hold over others, assuming all things are otherwise equal (one group is not manifestly stupider than the other), isn’t going to last for very long, especially in a war. The nation on the receiving end of the superior technology will have a very strong drive to either replicate the technology that is defeating them, or develop sufficiently effective tactics to counter that technology.
A major part of Epic Fantasy is the battle. Tolkien, George RR Martin, and essentially every other Epic Fantasy author has their share of battles. Some are told through the eyes of the characters as they happen, and others are recounted as history. But they’re there.
In traditional Epic Fantasy, creating action and suspense is a matter of bringing the main character into contact with his or her enemy. The reader is left to worry whether the main character is going to survive the intense fighting. But these battles are fought with sword, shield, and occasionally bows and arrows. The combatants look each other in the eye as they try to kill each other.
In Gunpowder Fantasy, especially when Rifles are introduced, battles are fought at range. Artillery slings rounds and shells across expansive battlefields and rows and columns of infantry shoot at each other from hundreds of yards. Suspense and intensity is different for Gunpowder Fantasy.
One way that you can maintain the intensity is to internalize your POV character’s experience. Give the scene intense detailing and describe how your character is feeling as bullets fly, shells explode, and people fall.
Also consider that once the bullets start flying, it can be a hectic time for your characters. At longer ranges, even rifles are only relatively accurate when compared to the muskets that came before them. Your characters aren’t going to be assured of their death, and that’s something to build on.
You also need to consider that even in the American Civil War, the first major war fought with rifled muskets, bayonet charges were still rather common. This gives you a chance to bring some of the intensity of hand to hand fighting to your battles. Throw your characters into the enemy lines, where muskets are used as clubs, swords are drawn, and revolvers are a last ditch weapon.
Battles are a good chance to show how your characters react under pressure, be sure to take advantage of the unique aspects that Gunpowder Fantasy affords you.