V[OH~.T[u%; SP"B}=ffr_r!hR͹~3H'q]/b4w=uT/D"S4 NSgF+aBuf H5KuD͙TL\ iu:ɡ.Nn҄d$/i} ac~(wqx ߗgIC2?.h=dC?xS?\vw~v$]"f*bLv}2t1ȶgYMfa ݲyǓمP|:)=0sDò`KiP cfє }UEbO!=iL wO@1v1QhB}_ 궺C᧽[I&?i:et)YJHv7*gͨ ab7GS+xa8l6Fqm9}ZSRrs b5fŝs[B3!E(Ay{Hp $b%$4dʎ5\TB1őfC Qƒ fqh4Tq’l?49,Na7bg)&^wyЂʎ2!MF*fRi#e3YtTCsJ=/5 Md+{_.A_>Bw:BmaZ4e.jz"1*3 g:PnZD9y>.yY+qhY̖2rw+ L"x1:`<&/F5]UUeZLWߪYl^pӇgk.ӻ]yo<~%ZJUrZdڎJ?wh!TV sY *咔N=/(3ɦ͔gy,$Bg]/yüh[[diС|]+#3bʽmBD$N"oEV{t?TS7`F-${rުWwy Rvʹ2ȺՆv1] pyEn+/|[Tsֱy⛨0`zvt<;dq[x^

52 Pick Up: A New Game Each Week!

Episode 10: Black Powder, Cold Iron

Gareth-Michael Skarka
April 12, 2001


This week, I've got another d20 game for you (a copy of the required reprint of the Open Gaming License can be found in the forums below).  It is a game of Napoleonic action, with a magical twist.   (My personal interests would totally eat up a standard Napoleonic RPG...but I know that most gamers require some kind of power twist added to straight historical games, and so magic seemed to work well in this context.)

My biggest inspirations for Black Powder, Cold Iron were:

The Sharpe novels by Bernard Cornwell-- the tale of an English Rifleman, raised from the ranks.  Also made into a series of films, available on video, and occasionally broadcast on the History Channel.

The Age of Unreason novels by Geoffrey Keyes-- magic alternate history, set in the 18th century.

The Horatio Hornblower novels by C.S. Forrester-- classic Napoleonic Naval fiction (recently produced film versions on A&E are also entertaining.)

and to a lesser extent, the Flintloque wargame by Alternative Armies, which took standard Napoleonic wargaming and translated it through a Games-Workshop-esque lens (the English are orcs, the French are elves, etc.).


In July of 1799, French soldiers made a discovery that changed the world.  In a town called Rosetta near Rashid, about 200km north of Cairo on the Mediterranean coast of Egypt, they discovered two stone tablets.

The first, which became known as the Rosetta Stone, was a solid piece of black Basalt engraved with writing which celebrates the crowning of King Ptolemy V, from approximately 200 BC. The engravings were in three languages: Egyptian Hieroglyphics, Demotic, and Greek-- providing a much-needed tool for translation between those languages.  Now, the ancient writings of the Egyptians would be open for study.

The second stone changed the world even more drastically-- all the more so since it was very nearly destroyed in the excavation process.  The stone, divided into the same three languages as the Rosetta Stone, featured a complex explanation of the principles that underlay the ancient Egyptian practices of magic.  Within months, French archaeologists had unlocked the secrets of this stone, now known to history as the Rashid Tablet.  The ancient knowledge of magic was let loose upon the world.

This knowledge could've sat unused, however, were it not for the events that followed.  In November of 1799, Napoleon Bonaparte, along with Ducos and Sieyes, heads a coup that takes over France. Napoleon is named First Consul.   Since Napoleon was the general in command of the forces in Egypt when the Rashid Tablet was discovered, he immediately diverts governmental resources to study it upon his becoming consul, appointing a Commission to report directly to him with their findings.  Ducos and Sieyes allow him this, failing to recognize the importance of the Commissions efforts to the future of France.

One group, however, was aware of that importance.  The Roman Catholic Church discover the nature of the Commissions research, and realize the key role that Napoleons support plays in their efforts.  They make numerous efforts to stop the research, but to no avail.  Finally, on Christmas Eve, 1800, a secret group of assassins dispatched by the Vatican attempt to assassinate Napoleon.  The attempt is not successful-- but the bomb injures many people.  Napoleon orders increased security for both himself and the Commission.  This move further solidifies his power among the consuls, making him the absolute ruler of France in all but name.

Over the next two years, Napoleon consolidates Frances power, politically as well as magically.  Breakthroughs in magical research come from the Commission, who begin to apply the principles theyve discovered through the Rashid Tablet to other ancient writings which until now had merely been collecting dust on museum shelves.

In May of 1804, Napoleon unveils the new codified rules of magic, and in response, the adulation of the people lead him to be declared Emperor Napoleon I.   He nominates 18 Marshals of the Empire to oversee military and magical affairs.   The Church, realizing that the best way to stay on top of Napoleon's developments is to be at least nominally allied with him, endorses his regime.  The Pope presides over Napoleon's coronation in December 1804.

From there, history proceeds much as it did in our world...Napoleon begins to consolidate his power in Europe, and within a few years, the continent is embroiled in war.   For those of you unfamiliar with Napoleonic history, I recommend the following website for your research: http://www.napoleonicwars.com/

The magical knowledge uncovered by the French naturally leaked out, however.  You cannot keep the genie in the bottle once it has been uncorked, after all.   Within a few years, every major power had magical research divisions underway, if only scrambling for efforts to counter French magic on the battlefield.

The year is now 1812.   War rages on.   Armies and Navies clash, aided by the sorcery of battlefield magicians.   With the magical playing field essentially levelled by spies and other information leaks, the Great Powers have now begun looking elsewhere for assistance.   Magicians by the score now attempt to summon and bind Demonic forces to give them battlefield advantages over their enemy....the Church is protesting this development, but their outrage is going unheeded in the name of military efficiency.


Unlike the standard form of Napoleonic gaming (wargames), Black Powder, Cold Iron should concentrate on more personal action....characters should be individuals wrapped up in these events.  To that end, campaigns should concentrate on spies, or on special-mission combat troops (such as Riflemen, who, in some ways, were the precursor to the modern commando).

Using the d20 rules, all characters in BPCI should be human.   Allowable classes are:  Fighter, Rogue, Cleric or Sorcerer.  Fighters will fill the majority of rank-and-file characters, with Rogues making up the next largest block (spies and other sneaky types are primarily rogues).   Clerics are a special case.   These are members of the Church of England  or Eastern Orthodox Churches (who use divine magic to aid their nation's efforts), or Roman Catholic priests, who are secretly working to stamp out the demonic influences of other magic-users.   All other magic users use the Sorcerer class.  Clerics may not multi-class, although almost ALL Sorcerers are multi-classed  (to represent the fact that magic is taught as part of another military regimen.)

Use the table for "Renaissance weapons" on page 162 of the DMG to represent Musketry and pistols and the like, or develop your own statistics for the various early firearms that started to see use during this time (this was the time when Rifles first began to appear....shorter muskets with rifled barrels for greater accuracy).

Use the standard spell lists....although if you wish to get really into it, I would recommend using the special rules governing the creation and summoning of Demons from the recently-released Dragon Lords of Melnibone d20 game from Chaosium to add extra levels of nastiness to the new research being performed by magicians in this world.

One thing which should be added to the mix, however, is the effect of Cold Iron on magic.  Cold Iron is a special, alchemically prepared metal.   Carrying it will give characters a +5 bonus to saving throws against magic.   However, no-one carrying Cold Iron is capable of casting spells.    Musket balls made of Cold Iron will deliver normal damage against demons who cannot otherwise be harmed by normal weapons.  (Think of Cold Iron as being the campaign equivalent of "magical weapons" from a standard d20 setting).


- The characters are a group of spies sent into an enemy city to steal a magical artifact being constructed by the enemy's magical research division

A demon summoned for battle by the player's side breaks lose of it's bonds and is rampaging the countryside.  The characters are sent by their commanding officers to bring the creature back into bondage, or to destroy it.

- The characters discover a conspiracy within their own army to use demonic powers to usurp control of their nation on behalf of the military.   They must put a stop to this plan which would see their beloved country governed by the pawns of powerful demons.

- The players work for the Roman Catholic Church, and are charged with locating the Holy Grail...a divine artifact which can be used in a ritual to permanently remove all magic from the world.   However, their mission is discovered by spies of the various Great Powers (perhaps leaked by an unscrupulous priest), who have sent their own operatives to either secure the Grail to prevent this ritual from occurring.

There ya have it.

10 down, 42 to go.

See ya in 7.

Gareth-Michael Skarka

Gareth-Michael Skarka is the Operations Manager for Synister Creative Systems.  He has written and edited for games including Star Trek, Deadlands Hell on Earth, and GURPS.  He is the designer of several RPG systems, including UnderWorld and Hong Kong Action Theatre!. TQo0~^DҒt< ek&Ǿ$\۵ZFȃuwݝIŃU QYir2HR2.u3MFoعq]4#A`pP5(b& )b)ⰾp7(i<[-2gL#5[f g?*rVGf8*)s'+20ϟ̑F}KB<7wSL\gbvm9WiRބYŜvd y0'p2I_Fc2>#o A )VL[Qk?3`)<У[(*W.JH ?tXCt谙 X:@ \0w ~LqĤE-rFkYœj4q 5AQ6[AxG [>w|?( fХθY䝛$c=_qNĦoǸ>O_|&/_Mi7"宥CЧk0dӷLh;TmuCGU-!Ul{ h<\bQX.~"O2*yPcz!ŠGg

What do you think?

Go to forum!\n"; $file = "http://www.rpg.net/$subdir/list2.php?f=$num"; if (readfile($file) == 0) { echo "(0 messages so far)
"; } ?>

Reshuffled: 52 Pick Up, edited by Chris Czerniak

52 Pick Up original run, by Gareth-Michael Skarka

Other columns at RPGnet

TQo0~^DҒt< ek&Ǿ$\۵ZFȃuwݝIŃU QYir2HR2.u3MFoعq]4#A`pP5(b& )b)ⰾp7(i<[-2gL#5[f g?*rVGf8*)s'+20ϟ̑F}KB<7wSL\gbvm9WiRބYŜvd y0'p2I_Fc2>#o A )VL[Qk?3`)<У[(*W.JH ?tXCt谙 X:@ \0w ~LqĤE-rFkYœj4q 5AQ6[AxG [>w|?( fХθY䝛$c=_qNĦoǸ>O_|&/_Mi7"宥CЧk0dӷLh;TmuCGU-!Ul{ h<\bQX.~"O2*yPcz!ŠGg