Gunpowder

Alchemical magic, curse, and blessing

Silently Piper handed him an opened canteen and a vial of gunpowder. He smiled – a sadder smile than he might have offered just an hour before – and he sprinkled a pinch of gunpowder into the container to form the holy water of the Order. He poured it over his hands, to wash them clean of their guilt.
Showdown by Diane Morrison
  Gunpowder is an alchemical explosive compound, most commonly used in ammunition, artillery, and firearms; but also fireworks and pyrotechnics. It consists of a mixture of sulfur, charcoal, and saltpeter (potassium nitrate). The sulfur and charcoal act as fuels, while the saltpeter is an oxidizer. When ignited, gunpowder explodes, propelling a projectile (such as a ball or bullet) towards the target. The force of the explosion causes the projectile to travel at a velocity greater than the speed of sound, doing considerable damage when it hits the target it was aimed at.   The Gunslinger Order and the Desperadoes also use gunpowder as a magical substance like salt for the purposes of blessing or cursing.

Properties

Material Characteristics

Gunpowder is a finely grained black powder with a slightly shiny undertone, like the colour of hematite.

Physical & Chemical Properties

Gunpowder is extremely flammable and explosive. It must be kept dry in order to fire, and it is sensitive to heat and static, so large amounts are kept sealed or in powder rooms (called "magazines") under special conditions designed to reduce the amount of potential static or other electric sparks.

Compounds

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Black Powder Close Up by Mondebleu
Gunpowder is composed of:
  • 74.8% saltpeter
  • 13.3% charcoal
  • 11.9% sulfur
  Saltpeter is made from bat guano or horse urine and other "manure soils." Charcoal is made from the remains of standard wood charcoal, ground to a powder. Elemental sulphur is mined from deposits in the soil.   It is important to keep the ingredients separate while they are ground. Once they are carefully mixed in a mortar and pestle, gunpowder must be handled with great care.   Gunslingers and Desperadoes manufacture their own gunpowder almost exclusively. Because of the unstable way that alchemical laws exist in the Wyrd West, it is dangerous to do so without careful training.

Geology & Geography

Charcoal is easily acquired by burning wood. Saltpeter requires some difficult processing, but the raw ingredients are not hard to come by either. Sulphur is mined in several locations in The Dominion 's Western regions.

Life & Expiration

Gunpowder keeps for a long time. Stored in an airtight, dry container, it keeps indefinitely, and it still lasts a long time when exposed to air and kept from getting damp.

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History & Usage

Discovery

It is said that the ancient Chinese invented gunpowder in an alchemical quest for immortality. It has been used for thousands of years.

Everyday use

Firearms, artillery, and fireworks all require gunpowder to function.

Cultural Significance and Usage

In addition to its practical uses, for obvious reasons, Gunslingers and Desperadoes also consider gunpowder to be a holy compound. It is used by Gunslingers in blessing and protection rituals, and by the Desperadoes in dark magic.   Gunslingers typically add a pinch of gunpowder to water to form the holy water of their order, or blend it with salt as a sacred protective substance. They use it to bless, protect, consecrate, and purify. Their holy water is used in the ritual of The Benediction, magic circles, consecrating the dead, banishing spirits, and their Cleansing Ritual, in which they wash the sin of bloodletting from their hands.   Desperadoes use gunpowder to empower necromancy and the dark magic of their Cursed Shot.

Industrial Use

Very rarely, gunpowder may be used for mining explosives in certain "safe" areas where the technology is less unstable.

Manufacturing & Products

Gunpowder is the essential compound that makes ammunition cartridges function.

Hazards

Sulphur is toxic, and should not be absorbed through the skin in any significant amount. Handling sulphur regularly requires gloves, face masks, and possibly other protective equipment.   Gunpowder is highly flammable and explosive once mixed, and should be handled with care.

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Distribution

Trade & Market

Almost all gunpowder is manufactured by Gunslingers and Desperadoes, although occasionally, enterprising Gnome Alchemists figure out how to create it relatively safely as well. It is extremely difficult to acquire on the open market. Desperadoes don't tend to share, while Gunslingers will only sell it to people they trust.

Storage

Gunpowder is typically stored in airtight containers, or in a powder magazine. Metal and flame are banned in magazines, for obvious reasons.

Law & Regulation

It is illegal to possess gunpowder for non-Gunslingers in most areas throughout The Dominion, unless one has a pyrotechnics license; and usually, Gunslingers oversee the issuing of such licenses.

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Ammunition by Kai Stachowiak

Thanks to TrueUndeadHero for the idea for this article!

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Books in the Wyrd West Chronicles

Serial:

Novel:

Once Upon a Time in the Wyrd West (Wyrd West Chronicles #1-6)

Anthology:

Gunsmoke & Dragonfire (featuring The Teeth of Winter (Wyrd West Chronicles #7)
 

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Western Scene by Jean Beaufort

Type
Composite
Value
$25 to $50 per keg
Rarity
Rare
Odor
Charcoal with a sharp sulphur overtone
Taste
Charcoal
Color
Black with a slight sheen
Common State
Solid (powder)
Related Items
Related Technologies

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Once Upon a Time in the Wyrd West

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Graeme dismounted and drew a cross in the dirt where the blood must have fallen. The hard-packed prairie had drunk it down like a gargantuan vampire. Graeme knelt and sprinkled salt and gunpowder on the cross. He considered the swinging body, but decided it was simply too high up and he wouldn’t be able to fetch it down. “Ashes to ashes and dust to dust,” he intoned. “From ashes we come, and to ashes we return, and the Lord and the Lady watch over all. I reckon your life weren’t so pleasant,” he said to the corpse as he rose to his feet. “But rest in peace now, sir sorcerer. If such you were.”
Showdown by Diane Morrison


Cover image: Materials Cover: Goldvein Set by Verti

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