Gunpowder and Flashpowder
In The Fighting Fantasy 10th Anniversary Yearbook, the entry for Moonsday 19th of Freeze reads "Gunpowder invented by Fangthane Dwarfs, 1955 OT". This explicit reference to Gunpowder reveals that this technology has been known in Titan for over 300 years, at least by Dwarfs, so it is not a surprise that Gunpowder technology of various kinds features in many Fighting Fantasy publications set in Titan.
Perhaps the most (in)famous occurrence of Gunpowder Technology in Titan occurs in The Crown of Kings, where the hero's fellow prisoner tells them:
“ My name is Farren Whyde and my kingdom is Ruddlestone, way to the west beyond the Zanzunus. In my own kingdom I was renowned for my discoveries, My most important discovery was a flash powder which would propel a missile further than any arrow could be fired. It was this cursed discovery which attracted the attentions of the Archmage ... Since that time his threats have kept me working on my project. But I fear that his own ambitions will see its use only for conquest, not for the defence of peace. ”
This is not the only occurence of Flash Powder in the Sorcery! series, however, suggesting that Farren Whyde's account is not the whole story, and is perhaps an outright fabrication (which would not surprising, given his ultimate identity). In The Seven Serpents, you are asked if you possess any "flash-fire powder", although there does not appear to be anywhere you can acquire this substance in any of the Sorcery! books.
Flashpowder makes another appearance in Battleblade Warrior. Here Julius Lecarte, who describes it as "Flashpowder, Sulis Vitae from Sardath", mixes it with oil and soaks wood with it in an attempt to blow up some Lizard Men. We learn that, on ignition, "An incredibly hot sheet of flame explodes upwards into the sky, carrying with it the screams of dying Lizard Men". The Sardath link is very interesting in light of the connection between Dwarfs and Gunpowder on Titan, since Sardath and Fangthane are not very far apart from each other. "Sulis Vitae" looks like Latin, but the first bit "Sulis" isn't (Sulis is the name of a Celtic goddess). "Vitae" looks like the genitive sg. of Latin "vita" = "life", but of course it may not be intended to mean this.
“ But this is no magical device. Inside this package is firepowder. It will explode like a fireball. Look. Do you see this string here? It is the fuse. Light the string with this tinderbox. It will glow when it catches. There will be a delay while the string burns. But when it burns down to the package, a great fireball will burst out of the package and destroy anything within range. ”
The key here is that this substance works just like Gunpowder, and is explicitly described as non-magical. Interestingly, Thugruff, on discovering it aboard the Galleykeep, recognises it: "Look! Firepowder!". This suggests that this substance is known about amongst military circles at least.
Blacksand, a supplement for the Advanced Fighting Fantasy – The Roleplaying Game, has a section giving rules for "Firepowder Weapons". Here it states that "Firepowder" (also known as Gunpowder or "Flashpowder") is used in Allansia and the Old World, although not widely. It also states that both matchlock and flintlock pistols and blunderbusses, as well as grenades and cannon are used in these regions, although they are all uncommon and expensive.
A number of other explosives are encountered in the Fighting Fantasy series, and although there is no direct evidence that they are Gunpowder based, it is quite possible that they are. The only mention of explosives in Titan occurs in the account of the siege of Vymorna. Here we read that:
“ For six years now, the combined forces of magic, explosives, battering-rams and sheer weight of numbers have been slamming against the walls of the ancient city on the mouth of the Vymorn River. ”
The listing of "explosives" separately from "magic" strongly suggests we are dealing with Gunpowder (or similar chemical) explosives here, and that this technology is known to the Lizard Men. No indication is given how these explosives are delivered. Interestingly, there is little additional information on this in Battleblade Warrior, where we read of the "bombardment of rocks and exploding balls of sulphur". This may or may not be related to Gunpowder, and may, in fact, represent some other alchemical mix.
“ A wicker basket in one corner is full of spiked iron spheres with wicks protruding from their metal casings: grenades. These vicious explosive devices have been developed by alchemists and are known for their destructive power - not to mention their unreliability. If you ever want to use a grenade, you should light the fuse with your tinderbox, or a nearby fire source, then hurl it at your target. When you use a grenade, roll one dice: on a roll of 1, the grenade is a dud and will not go off; a roll of 2-5 means that it hits its target, doing 1 dice worth of damage; however, on a roll of 6, the thing explodes prematurely, causing YOU one dice worth of damage! You can carry up to four grenades with you. ”
These grenades are found in the Juggernaut's armoury, and although it's not stated that they are filled with gunpowder (in fact the word "wick" suggests there might be more to it), they are definitely chemical rather than magical explosives.
Gunpowder is not only used as an explosive on Titan. It is also used for the purposes of projecting missiles, as Farren Whyde indicates, and in most cases on Titan this means Cannon, which appear to be in use in the seas west of Allansia in particular.
In City of Thieves, you encounter a muscle-bound, bare-chested man who is playing "catch" with cannon-balls (see the illustration, right) in the Market Square in Port Blacksand. In addition, one of the ships docked in Blacksand harbour is illustrated as having two cannon poking through cannon ports in the hull. Thus City of Thieves establishes, early on in the series, that cannon technology exists in what was to later become Allansia in the 280s AC.
Another appearance of cannons, again early in the series in and around Blacksand, is found in Temple of Terror. Here you get passage on the pirate ship Belladonna, where "Your job will be to load cannonballs during battle". All too soon you are called to duty ("you take your place at your cannon"), as the Belladonna comes under attack from a Dwarf man-of-war ship. Things soon go ill: "Noise suddenly erupts all around as the man-of-war's cannonballs smash into the Belladonna. The order is given to fire, but you realise the Belladonna is no match for the battleship." This indicates that cannon technology is used by both Human pirates and Dwarf sailors off the Allansian coast, also in the 280s AC.
More nautical cannonry appears in Demons of the Deep in the seas west of Allansia. The pirate ship Troll is illustrated with a cannon poking out of a cannon-port. Furthermore, the explosive power of Gunpowder becomes all to apparent when the pirate ship Troll is set on fire: "Behind you comes an explosion, as the fire you set reaches the powder stores and sends Troll to Davy Jones’s locker." There may also be cannon-ports visible in the illustration of the sunken ship in Atlantis, although other interpretations are perhaps possible.
There is not much (if any) evidence for Gunpowder Technology in Dungeoneer, but the illustration of the ships in Blacksand harbour appears to show cannons poking out of the hull of the second ship along.
“ These are long, oar-driven ships ... They are often used by coastal pirates ... They can be armed with a ram, or a catapult to fire blazing bales at other ships. ”
Of Merchant Ships we read:
“ These are typically the same size as galleys, but wider, with a single mast and a triangular 'lateen' sail. Some also have ports for oars, which can be used to move the ship around a dock, or when becalmed. Pirates, however, often use very similar ships for making raids on merchant ships. In this way, they can get very close to their quarry before ramming them and swinging men across on ropes to kill and plunder. ”
Of Warships we read that:
“ Larger than merchant ships, they usually have two or three masts, a battering-ram just below the waterline at the front ... they may also have large catapults or ballistas. ”
None of the illustrations accompanying these descriptions show cannons either. Other nautical scenes in Fighting Fantasy are also silent on the issue of cannons, including those in Seas of Blood, Master of Chaos, The Keep of the Lich-Lord, Bloodbones and The Riddling Reaver (but see "Firearms" below for evidence of Gunpowder Technology in Bloodbones), although it is just possible that the model ship on the wall of The Wayfarer's Rest in Kharé features cannon portholes.
Gunpowder powered Firearms are explicitly mentioned in three Fighting Fantasy books: (Magehunter, Howl of the Werewolf and Stormslayer), illustrated in another (Bloodbones), and they are perhaps implicit in Farren Whyde's description of Flashpowder discussed above.
The first appearance of Firearms in a Fighting Fantasy book set in Titan is in Paul Mason's Magehunter. In Magehunter, you have a "flintlock pistol" in your possession, and you take this to Titan with you in the adventure. You, Mencius and the flintlock pistol do not, however, originate on Titan, but in some other time or place. As such, the flintlock pistol in Magehunter is not technology from Titan, and tells us nothing about the development of Gunpowder Technology there.
As noted above, there is no evidence for cannon technology in Bloodbones, despite its nautical setting. Nothing in the text hints at the existence of any Gunpowder-based technology. The only (non-Gunpowder-based) incendiary weapon mentioned is the burning ball of pitch launched at the Sea Maiden.
In fact the only obvious evidence for Gunpowder-based technology in Bloodbones appears on its cover illustration, which seems to show three flintlocks about the person of Cinnabar. There are two short-barrelled pistols - the handgrip, metal side-plate and trigger of a pistol tucked into his belt are visible on the one on his left, and on his right the outline of another hand grip sticks out beneath the parrot's wing. Further up, on the left side of Cinnabar's chest, and alongside the bandolier buckle, there is a handgrip, metal side-plate, and trigger of what looks like a long-barrelled flintlock rifle running down Cinnabar's body to his right hip where it disappears under his coat. What may be the top of a powder-horn also appears on his left-hand side, although other interpretations of this item are perhaps possible.
The pistol doesn't appear in the otherwise similar illustrations of Cinnabar accompanying the text of Bloodbones. However, the possible powder-horn (again on his left-hand side) appears in one of the illustrations.
Howl of the Werewolf provides incontrovertible evidence of Gunpowder Technology on Titan, with no indication that it comes from some other world or time. What is more, this gunpowder technology is of a fairly advanced sort: flintlock pistols. You have three potential encounters with flintlock pistols in the cursed land of Lupravia in Mauristatia, where this adventure is set:
- 1) Van Richten the Vampire Hunter has one which you can end up being shot by and/or in possession of.
- 2) The Headless Horseman carries one, and is more than happy to use it.
- 3) In The Gibbet Tree, you may find a box which has a flintlock pistol inside it. It is described as an "ornate piece".
Finally, you may buy lead bullets or have silver ones made for you at the stall of Plumbus Gelt the alchemist in Vargenhof. Instructions for using a flintlock pistol are also given in Howl of the Werewolf.
It is worth pointing out that these are flintlock pistols, not matchlock ones - see the "Discussion" section below for further details.
Stormslayer provides attestation of the existence of muskets as well as pistols in the Old World. The Hero of Stormslayer can purchase a Blunderbuss, Blackpowder and shot in a market in Crystal City in Femphrey.
As noted above, Farren Whyde alludes to firearms (or perhaps cannon) in his revelation about Flashpowder in The Crown of Kings: "flash powder which would propel a missile further than any arrow could be fired".
Discussion of Gunpowder Technology on Titan
The evidence for Gunpowder technology of various sorts on Titan is substantial, but there are difficulties with reconciling some of the evidence which are addressed in this section. These involve the restricted use of Gunpowder technology on Titan and the appearance of rather advanced Gunpowder technology (firearms) which seems somewhat anachronistic compared with other evidence in the Fighting Fantasy canon.
Although Gunpowder itself appears to be reasonably widespread on Titan (suggesting that it wasn't just the Dwarfs who invented it, or their knowledge has begun to disseminate), specific technologies such as cannons and firearms are much more restricted. Cannons appear only in the Western Ocean, typically used by pirates operating out of Port Blacksand and Dwarf sailors. As noted above, cannons are not found in other sea-faring adventures in Titan, although only in Seas of Blood, where combat at sea is central, is this absence striking. On land Cannons are entirely unrepresented, even though they would doubtless be of considerable use in sieges and warfare (such as the siege of Vymorna).
Once again the Old World appears to be a centre for gunpowder technology. It is perhaps curious that Farren Whyde claims to have invented gunpowder, and the Archmage is so interested in it, given that cannon technology is clearly present in the Western Ocean at the same time, grenades are found in Ruddlestone around about the same period, and pistol technology appears to be present in other parts of the Old World (although the dates for this are not known).
It might be possible to suggest that this level of technology doesn't seem to fit very well with what we know about the state of gunpowder technology on Titan, and that both Howl of the Werewolf and Bloodbones might be set at some point in the future compared to the usual Titan setting of in and around 285 AC. On a closer examination of Howl of the Werewolf, though, this doesn't seem to be the case. In (328) we get some dating evidence for the adventure you have found yourself involved in. Here the hero reads of the Cadre Infernal that:
“ It was at its height a hundred years ago ... but lost popularity in the years after the War of the Four Kingdoms ... there are rumours of the Cadre Infernal being revived two decades ago. ”
This implies that the Cadre Infernal was at its height some time in the second half of the 2nd century AC (the War of the Four Kingdoms began in 175 AC). A hundred years later puts it about the 285 AC mark - i.e. Titan’s "present day".
Other Explosive Materials
Portal of Evil
A substance called Igneolite, invented by the alchemist Azudraz, appears in Portal of Evil. Although this has some similarities with gunpowder, it’s clearly some other, perhaps partially magical substance:
“ The torch falls from Azudraz's metal hand and drops on the pile of crumpled paper at the place where the various fuses meet. Within seconds, the centre of the room is ablaze; thick smoke fills the air, and all you can see are the eager lines of fire running towards the sacks of Igneolite. You drop to the floor and cover your head, expecting an explosion; but each sack, as the flame reaches it, bursts with a gentle pop, sending up a cloud of glowing dust which coats the stonework. When the flames have died and all the sacks have burst, you inspect the walls. You have been imprisoned: Igneolite melts and remoulds stone in an instant. ”
Although Igneolite isn't Gunpowder, it is interesting that the hero drops to the floor and covers their head, expecting an explosion. This might suggest a familiarity with explosive powders on thier part, but there is no mention of explosions being used by the miners in Portal of Evil.
The Gates of Death
In The Gates of Death, the King of the Graveyard Imps at the burial grounds near the Broken Goddess Fort may have to use some kind of cannonball to defend himself. The cannonball is described as having a fuse that the King lights to cause a flame explosion. It should also be noted that Imps use a liquid called fire spirit, presented as one of the most flammable on Titan, to make cremations of the deceased. It is possible that their cannonball may use this product, even if the use of gunpowder is not excluded.
- The Fighting Fantasy 10th Anniversary Yearbook - p. 34
- The Crown of Kings - 79
- The Seven Serpents - 155
- Battleblade Warrior - 349
- Battleblade Warrior - 16, see also 63, 214, and 262
- The Trolltooth Wars - 268, see also pages 269, 279, and 286
- The Trolltooth Wars - 286
- Legend of the Shadow Warriors - 300
- Curse of the Mummy - 112
- Blacksand - pg. 7-8
- Titan - The Fighting Fantasy World - 93
- Battleblade Warrior - Background
- Knights of Doom - 390
- City of Thieves - 398
- City of Thieves - 378, 398
- City of Thieves - 171
- Temple of Terror - 238, and 187, 308, and 230
- Dungeoneer - 288
- Demons of the Deep - 1
- Demons of the Deep - 189
- Demons of the Deep - 282
- Titan - The Fighting Fantasy World - 118-119
- Kharé - Cityport of Traps - 110
- Magehunter - The Most Revered Treatise of MAGE HUNTING, Background
- Bloodbones - 352
- Bloodbones - Front Cover
- Bloodbones - 182, 333
- Bloodbones - 182
- Howl of the Werewolf - 478
- Howl of the Werewolf - 190
- Howl of the Werewolf - 481
- Howl of the Werewolf - 54
- Howl of the Werewolf - 400, see also 182, 311, 374, 376, 379, 450, 462, 465, 501, and 506 for examples of use
- Stormslayer - 70
- The discussion which follows depends upon posts by various people on the Rebuilding Titan Yahoo! group, particularly in October and November 2007
- Portal of Evil - 127
- The Gates of Death - 19, 137