Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Feudal nobility and royalty

This is at least partially for Nick's purpose, but also just to inform.

The noble system of the Silver Empire is essentially a modern feudal society. You might ask wtf modern, but the truth is that only China had any sort of fedual-ish government past the 1600s (even then, it was on its way), and the SE world is, in terms of technological and social advancement, roughly in the early-mid 1600s (possibly 1700s) in our reckoning. The difference is that we are outside the area of familiarity for that time; Coprova is the closest thing to a United States of America, and it is functionally similar to the early US; less centralization, individual states govern their land, widely different social norms in each state. Jahari is just an anomaly, as it is a capitalist state that has never existed on Earth and probably won't for another 50-100 years. So they are kinda beyond the social development curve. We don't know much about the elves or dwarves governance. The elves are essentially little Greek city-states while the dwarves are ruled by a singular king, but we have no mention of representation, class systems, or economics.

So let's take some things we know and extrapolate.

The SE is run by a singular ruler (Empress Sophia) and her family. The royal family is supported by noble houses that operate as nearly separate feudal kingdoms, subject to the SE's laws. Due to the sovereign family's dependency on the noble houses for order and governance, they have strong political sway. However, in a situation where there is a single sovereign (and family), it is likely she has the final say in any political proceedings (though this may estrange her from support of those opposed to her decision).

The church is a separate body, and likely has no official political power -- this is not the Roman Empire. However, the church serves as an operational arm of the government, and due to the need of church services to military units, the church has enormous power, even more so than it might have with official political sway. This is one situation where the mechanics of D&D (clerics, favored souls and divine adepts can heal) impact politics. With the extreme dependency on cleric magic, the church can leverage a lot of power. As a result, there are organizations like the Inquisition which are operational elements of the government, but are part of the church. By limiting the practice of non-Dragonwright clerics, the government ensures that the church body is the only body able to support the military, further entrenching their dominance of the valuable cleric resource. It is also possible that the church itself is a political entity. However, with characters like Rowenthal who are non-nobility but present strong influence in politics, this does not seem to be the case. If the church was a true political entity, it would likely be impossible for non-nobles to become clerics (adepts unknown, favored souls are effectively sorceror-clerics so they could come from any bloodline).

So some noble rank stuff:

The Empress is the sovereign, the highest ranked official in the government.
Below her are kings or queens. These are likely the ruling members of the founding families. It is possible that there is no "king" rank in SE, in which case they would be dukes instead.
The term prince and princess are likely used for the non-ruling royal family members.
There are several "duke" ranks, and they are basically the noble family heads. It is possible that some are not dukes and are earls instead (likely), and it is also possible, especially if there are no kings, that some are archdukes.
The head of the Halvor family (not the Baron) is likely a marquis, as is any non-duke noble bordering dwarflands, Jahari, or the lizard territories. It's possible that this rank is not used, though the title "marquis" is pretty fucking cool.
Counts or earls probably encompass most of the noble heads that are not dukes. Other families that are not as close to the rulership are likely counts, as are junior members (non-heads) of the big daddy families. Counts (or earls) typically rule over counties; they are the regional governors for their noble families.
Barons rule a barony -- a small area inside a county. The Halvor county (likely not called that) has the Nedrech barony as its center region. Barons are essentially mayors, though their land governance is a bit larger.

Those are the big governor ranks; holding one means you mean something!

Below that are the normal noble ranks. Lord (or Lady) is an administrator type or leader of nobles. It may be, in the SE world, used for any noble without a governing rank (that's up to Nick). Non-nobles are not lords.
Knight is the default noble rank; because I assume a knight in the SE world is a military thing, lords may be the non-military version of knights.

Revised Bulletproof vests in d20 Modern

Armor is rated in 6 categories: I, IIA, II, IIIA, III, and IV. I stops only very small caliber bullets, while IV stops even armor-piercing incendiary .30 caliber magnum bullets. It may also have an additional rating of "M" (such as IIIA-M) which gives protection against melee weapons and bows. The exception is Level III and Level IV which always protect against melee weapons. Thrown weapons, except exceptionally large or fast ones, are stopped by armor regardless of rating.

A vest may stop a threat higher than its threat rating, but such a hit destroys the protection of the vest if it uses a soft or ceramic ballistic panel. If it uses a metal panel, you got lucky. This only works for shots of 1 category better (ex. Level II threat versus Level IIA vest). Even if it does not stop the attack, the vest may reduce the damage. In any case, the armor is destroyed and must be replaced.

Even if a vest does stop an attack, the armor panel must be replaced if it is struck. Continuous use of damaged armor panels may result in complete failure of the vest even by inferior threats. In game terms, this won't happen unless it's used in successive combats, and any vest will be able to stop at least 2 hits that it is rated for, even if they happen in successive battles. After two battles in which the vest is hit by a rated threat (Level IIIA vest getting hit by Level IIIA bullets), the vest must be repaired and the ballistic panels must be replaced. Vests can still be damaged even by inferior threats, but it takes many more hits and a lot more time. Vests can also be damaged by maltreatment, but this is rare as they are expected to be used in combat areas where they get caught or torn slightly by underbrush.

Slashing melee weapons usually destroy a vest if the vest is not rated for melee attacks. However, the vest will partially resist (typically -5 or -10 damage, depending on the vest) the first attack. If the slashing attack is stopped by this partial resistance, it does not destroy the vest, but a second hit will even if it does not deal damage.

Example 1: A character is wearing a soft concealable vest (+3 armor bonus) of Level II rating. His armor gives its +3 armor bonus against Level II and lower threats. It may stop a Level IIIA threat, but the vest will be destroyed. A Level III threat will penetrate the vest and do full damage, but won't destroy the vest (punches a clean hole). Against a sword, the vest is basically worthless, but will subtract 5 damage from the first hit it takes.

Damage to a vest only applies if the attack hits the defender's Touch AC (or shield AC, if using a shield); in other cases, the attack misses, hits cover, or is deflected by a shield.

Magic armor (including armor given temporary enhancement bonuses by magic) is rated for all threats (even those that bypass Level IV armor) and will not be damaged unless a sunder attempt is made. Even then, the armor has hardness 5 higher than normal.

Concealable vest: +3 armor bonus, Max Dex +8. ACP -0. Counts as light armor.
Concealable vests can come in any category. Any vest with a rigid ballistic panel (metal, ceramic, etc.) has an ACP of +6 and has a +2 bonus on Spot checks to detect it. Vests without a panel are rated Level I. Vests with soft panels can be rated anywhere from IIA (inferior quality) to IIIA (best quality). Vests with rigid panels can be rated anywhere from IIIA-M (cheap or improvised) to IV-M.

Tactical armor: +5 armor bonus, Max Dex +3, ACP -4. Counts as medium armor for proficiency, but does not reduce speed unless the user is unproficient.
Tactical armor is always at least Level IIIA. If it has rigid panels, it can be rated up to IV-M.

Heavy tactical armor: +7 armor bonus, Max Dex +1, ACP -6. This counts as heavy armor. Always at least rated Level III-M.

Light shields are usually improvised and give a +1 shield bonus against melee weapons, thrown weapons, arrows, and some magical projectiles. They do not generally provide protection against bullets unless enchanted.

Commercial heavy shields are typically riot shields and give a +2 armor bonus. They are made out of laminated polycarbonate or carbon fiber and are generally stronger than a Level IV threat, making them effective against all reasonable threats. Due to their shape, they can be used as total cover if crouched behind. Medieval large shields don't enjoy this tactic (including any conjured by spells), and may not be effective against Level IV threats (though they are generally made of hardened steel and can stop Level III threats).

Monday, March 31, 2014

Gunpowder in fantasy/medieval

This is just a really small thing but curious.

In a fantasy world, there's the consideration of firearms. Absolutely the answer is yes; black powder is ridiculously simple to make for a kingdom with any sort of farming/ranching industry.

In the SE-E6 world, most potassium nitrate is probably mined, but it's possible to manufacture it as well. Potassium nitrate is probably the most difficult component to obtain for gunpowder but it's not hard to manufacture if you have a large supply of animal manure and some human workers to work the process. It is disgusting as fuck though.

Needed resource two is charcoal. I am fairly certain one could use mined coal, but since burned wood is just a thing in any fantasy setting (heat is just a thing that's needed), charcoal is plentiful as hell.

Sulfur must be mined in a fantasy setting. It's plentiful in the real world, and not much is needed to create black powder.

What's important though is the value and availability of black powder versus other things that do the same thing. As the propellant and/or warhead in projectile weaponry, black powder is pretty good since a little bit goes a fairly long way. It doesn't take much material to propel a musket ball and even less to fire a revolver or rifle cartridge. It takes a bit more to explosively deliver shrapnel to the enemy, so in a fantasy world an alchemical substance might be preferable depending on availability.

More advanced stuff is... a bit tricky! Modern explosives (and actually modern fertilizer too) mostly hinge on nitric acid. Nitric acid is formed in very small amounts naturally by ionizing components naturally in air. The only natural way this happens is from lightning bolts. The amount produced in this way is extremely negligible and in no way would be viable as a resource.

Magic lightning is a thing in the SE-E6 world, but it's pretty rare. Dragons/halfdragons with lightning breath weapons are probably more common than mages with lightning bolt spells by huge orders of magnitude. The problem is that you really need to control the electrical discharge, but it needs to be a very powerful discharge (like that of a lightning bolt or lightning breath weapon). It's possible that this could someday happen but the science involved is very... advanced. Worlds with 5th level spells can just fabricate nitric acid from the air which is totally fucked up. Minor creation can conjure the rest of the components to fabricate nitrocellulose or nitroglycerin. If your game allows you to get to 9th level as a wizard, you can manufacture explosives from the air. Yeah fuck D&D.

So without artificial electricity we're kinda hosed on nitric acid. Or are we?

Alchemy is a funny thing because we don't know what it can do. It can clearly make some kind of explosive stuff because alchemist's fire is a thing. Tanglefoot bags harden when exposed to air. How do you make something like that in a fantasy world? Shit's crazy. Nitric acid might not be so crazy when you consider that.

As for firearm primers (for ammunition), there's a few compounds that can do the job. Most of them are reasonably difficult to make. Sodium chlorate is probably the most plausible since electrolysis is possible through the use of cantrips and/or magic items.